Community resource linkages can be formal or informal partnerships between an employer and any organization that provides employment services or referral of candidates for special emphasis hiring programs.
Forming agreements with national, regional, and local organizations to support hiring efforts can be beneficial to all employers regardless of size, employment sector, or scope of work. Community linkages are outcome-based relationships which directly facilitate an employer’s ability to diversify its workforce. This is distinct from other types of private/non-profit relationships such as cause-related marketing.
Community linkages are especially relevant when recruiting people with disabilities and veterans. For federal contractors, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) is expected to increasingly mandate such linkages, making the development of substantive community partnerships essential.
Forming Community Linkages
Employers with affirmative action obligations and those who wish to increase hiring efforts related to veterans and people with disabilities should evaluate organizations for partnership potential.
When considering a potential linkage, employers should assess whether the organization:
…is geographically located near employment sites.
…has candidates who are trained for the position the company typically recruits for.
…has the ability to post jobs in a manner that will attract qualified candidates.
…has the ability to provide reasonable accommodation consultation and assistance.
…is a mandated partner related to federal contractor status.
…has the ability to provide resources for assistive technology procurement.
…has the ability to provide consistent applicant flow and referral tracking data.
…has the potential to develop training and resources for the employer.
…has the ability to offer a central point of contact for referrals in multiple locations, as needed.
… can offer a diverse variety of job candidates with different skills and qualifications, open to people with various types of disabilities, and different racial and ethnic backgrounds.
Outreach to organizations that provide referral, placement, and training services should occur at the local level where recruitment occurs, and should include community-based nonprofit organizations as well as local offices of the workforce development, vocational rehabilitation, and veteran’s administration services. Meeting with representatives of local organizations and developing personal relationships would yield better and more targeted referrals. Furthermore, when possible and appropriate, volunteering to assist in assessing candidates by offering practice interviews and resume reviews would provide an effective appraisal regarding the organization’s ability to refer the best matched talent thereby increasing return on investment. This can often be done in partnership with other employers, (for example through a local Chamber of Commerce), especially among small employers who may have time considerations).
Additional linkage agreements can be formed with organizations that have a national reach. Agreements may be entered into via a formalized Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), or a less formalized partnership agreement. In either case, partnerships and outreach efforts should be clearly defined and documented by the employer, and consider a sign off by all partners.
State and Local Workforce Agencies are considered a mandated partner for federal contractors. State workforce development systems include entities such as American Job Centers, and Employment Networks designated by the Social Security Administration’s Ticket-to-Work program.
State vocational rehabilitation agencies can be accessed from a single point – The National Employment Team (NET), which is sponsored by the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation(CSAVR). The NETis a national collaboration among 80 Vocational Rehabilitation agencies operating in all of the states and U.S. territories. The NET partners with businesses, leveraging the vast network of communication and dissemination channels available to them, to connect employers and qualified jobseekers. The NET offers a variety of business services, and can facilitate connections with other workforce development agencies and partner organizations at the national and local levels.
Disabled Veterans Outreach Program Specialist (DVOPS), Local Veterans Employment Representatives (LVERs), and Disability Program Navigators/ Resource Coordinators, can all be reached through workforce development agencies. They can help connect employers directly to qualified candidates with disabilities and veterans, as well as to other local workforce partners and resources.
There are many community-based and national nonprofit organizations that provide employment services as part of their overall mission to increase community inclusion of people with disabilities. Almost every community in the country has an agency, most of whom contract with state vocational rehabilitation agencies to provide job placement and support services.
In each state, there are also several Independent Living Centers. Centers for Independent Living (CIL/ILC) are community-based nonprofit agencies that are governed by and operated by individuals with disabilities. Some CILS offer employment services for employers seeking people with disabilities. They serve a diverse client base with various levels of ability, capable of filling professional, skilled, and unskilled jobs.
Regarding federal contracts compliance, it is important to note that production contracts with sheltered workshops within vocational rehabilitation agencies do not count as community partnerships for the purposes of hiring and retaining employees with disabilities, unless the for-profit partner can demonstrate that it also directly hires a number of individuals who were referred from the agency, and that the production contract was only one piece of an overall collaboration. Pay is also a consideration, as employees in sheltered settings often work at piece-rate for subminimum wages.
Educational Institutions and Organizations
Most corporations already actively recruit on college campuses and may already have established relationships with career services offices. However, on many campuses, student disability services offices, and veterans’ services offices do not work in tandem with the career services departments.
Establishing relationships with campus representatives who specifically serve potential candidates for employment in these groups is an excellent way to find qualified candidates. There are also programs established specifically to connect employers with students with disabilities, including the Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) which is comprised of highly qualified college students and recent graduates, pre-screened by federal recruiters.
Linkages and Compliance
Current affirmative action regulations pertaining to federal contractors include a mandate to conduct outreach activities to increase the employment of targeted groups, such as protected veterans and people with disabilities. Job postings from federal contactors must be disseminated through state workforce or local employment service delivery systems.
Regulations related to Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act suggest several different outreach strategies, including partnerships with community-based organizations and educational institutions. New regulations make formalized outreach efforts mandatory, as well as record-keeping and evaluation processes for determining the effectiveness of community partnerships.
The OFCCP and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have both established the elimination of barriers to recruitment and hiring of protected veterans and people with disabilities as enforcement priorities. Organizations that proactively develop data collection and evaluation methods related to new and existing community linkages will be well prepared in advance of increased regulatory activity.
OFCCP Frequently Asked Questions:
Finding Community Resource Linkage Organizations
Employer Assistance and Resource Network (EARN)
EARN provides information and consultation to employers on the recruitment and retention of individuals with disabilities. EARN can facilitate connections to community-based partners, and help employers evaluate organizations for linkage potential. EARN can assist employers to develop strategies which will promote a culture of inclusion, and attract more applicants with disabilities as well as encouraging disclosure in the incumbent workforce. EARN provides information and assistance with legislative and regulatory mandates related to the employment of individuals with disabilities.
The U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs
OFCCP maintains a linkage directory. This referral directory is developed and maintained to facilitate the connection between public and nonprofit organizations providing employment and placement services, and federal contractors looking for qualified candidates. It includes organizations serving veterans and individuals with disabilities, along with the organization’s contact information and website links, and is useful for all employers, with and without federal contracts.
Evaluating community-based nonprofits for effectiveness can be difficult given the number and variety of organizations. One measure of quality by which to judge an organization are the rigorous standards of accreditation from CARF International. Employers can search the CARF website for accredited vocational rehabilitation agencies.
Working with Service Providers
Dinah Cohen, EARN Employment Specialist, helps employers understand the benefits of partnering with service providers to build a pipeline of qualified job candidates with disabilities.
Federal Contractor Requirements <http://www.dol.gov/odep/topics/FederalContractorRequirements.htm>
This resource from the Office of Disability Employment Policy provides links to updated information and guidance on existing and proposed regulations for federal contractors.
Affirmative Action and Nondiscrimination Obligations of Contractors and Subcontractors Regarding Individuals with Disabilities (Part 60-741)<http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?c=ecfr&sid=3b71cb5b215c393fe910604d33c9fed1&rgn=div5&view=text&node=41:22.214.171.124.11&idno=41#41:126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52>
This section of U.S. Title 41: Public Contracts and Property Management, outlines the requirements of affirmative action programs for federal contractors and subcontractors.
Affirmative Action Obligations of Contractors and Subcontractors for Disabled Veterans and Veterans of the Vietnam Era (Part 60-250)<http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?c=ecfr&sid=3b71cb5b215c393fe910604d33c9fed1&rgn=div5&view=text&node=41:184.108.40.206.9&idno=41>
This section of U.S. Title 41: Public Contracts and Property Management outlines the requirements for federal contractors and subcontractors related to veterans.