Last month, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management — the independent agency that manages the federal government workforce — released a report showing positive movement in the representation of people with disabilities in federal employment. As one example, the share of new hires with disabilities is higher than at any point in the last 32 years.
This is outstanding news not only those of us who work to advance disability employment, but also the nation at large. That’s because for the federal workforce to be most effective, it must accurately reflect the diverse citizenry it serves. In 2010, President Obama called on federal agencies to increase the recruitment and retention of people with disabilities through Executive Order 13548. My agency, the Office of Disability Employment Policy, is proud to have been charged with assisting the Office of Personnel Management as it implements President Obama’s order, and we’re even more proud to see the results.
One important way we can build on this momentum is through the Workforce Recruitment Program. Co-sponsored by ODEP and the U.S. Department of Defense, the program helps highly motivated college students and recent graduates with disabilities, including veterans with disabilities, find temporary or permanent employment by featuring their profiles in a database for federal and private-sector employers. All students and grads selected for the program go through an extensive screening process and represent a wide range of skill sets.
The program has been in place since 1995 and today plays a critical role in helping federal agencies meet their responsibilities under Executive Order 13548. Federal hiring managers can hire participants from the database using either Schedule A (a hiring authority that can significantly streamline the hiring process for people with disabilities) or Schedule D (also known as the Pathways Program).
Private-sector employers of all sizes and in all industries also can take advantage of the program to fill anticipated short- or long-term staffing needs and diversify their workforce, today and into the future. Use of the WRP database for private employers is free and facilitated through the Employer Assistance and Resource Network, a service of ODEP’s National Employer Technical Assistance Center.
A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to meet with six Workforce Recruitment Program alumni (pictured here) when they came to the department. Was I impressed! All six of these individuals happen to have interned for federal agencies and are now government employees. They include a technical writer, IT program director and public health analyst, among other occupations. They’re the type of people you want working for your government, and fortunately for all of us, they are — thanks to the Workforce Recruitment Program.
Kathy Martinez is the assistant secretary of labor for disability employment policy.