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Learning Guide: Creating an Effective Talent Strategy Through Local and Regional Partnerships

Partnerships between businesses and public or non-profit  organizations can help diversify talent pipelines and reduce turnover.

Community partnerships are outcome-based relationships that can help organizations facilitate disability hiring and retention efforts. All businesses, regardless of size, employment sector, or industry, can benefit from forming partnership agreements with local and regional organizations.

Depending on the needs of the business, these relationships can be formal or informal. Formal partnerships allow business to clearly define their goals and develop a plan with the partner to achieve those goals. Informal agreements may suffice for specific needs – for example, an arrangement to refer candidates with disabilities from a local organization to a partner employer.

Creating partnerships with regional and local organizations is an effective way for businesses to access a diverse talent pipeline while reducing turnover. Many organizations can connect employers with qualified and skilled candidates with disabilities. Businesses can choose partners that are best aligned with their talent needs. EARN’s Partnerships to Build the Pipeline outlines four key categories of organizations ripe for recruiting-focused partnerships. They include organizations such as colleges and universities, regional workforce development entities, state Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) programs, and community-based agencies. Organizations in these categories frequently link people with disabilities to employment opportunities and are often ready and able to partner with businesses.

VR programs provide people with disabilities employment and rehabilitative services to help them prepare for, secure, regain, or retain employment. These services can reduce or remove barriers to employment. The VR Technical Assistance Center for Quality Management shares several types of support (PDF) that state VR programs and community-based agencies can offer businesses.

These beneficial services include:

Quick Tips

Here are some quick tips for getting started on forming partnerships to increase disability inclusion in your organization:

  1. Get involved. Learn about the systems, organizations, and services already in place that link people with disabilities with employment opportunities. Participate in activities like business advisory groups, job fairs, and event committees.
  2. Evaluate fit. Evaluate potential partners to ensure that they share your values and objectives.
  3. Dedicate resources. Dedicate resources to relationship development in the form of staff time and effort, as well as resources that may be required to fund or enable partnership efforts.
  4. Identify gaps. Use strategic relationships to fill gaps in internal processes. For example, seek out partners who can help with the use and integration of adaptive technologies in the workplace. Leverage partnerships to increase capacity to implement hiring initiatives. Many organizations develop partnerships with agencies that can provide on-the-job coaching and training assistance.
  5. Co-create objectives. Ensure partners can address your business objectives and meet your workforce needs for a diverse candidate pipeline, training, or supportive services. Potential partners will also have criteria for outcomes that they will need to have met. Plan for any agreements to be mutually beneficial to all parties involved. 
  6. Measure progress. Establish metrics to analyze progress, such as the number of candidate referrals who are hired or the number of trainees who complete a training program. Celebrate the "small wins" along the way.
  7. Evaluate and refine. Regularly evaluate partnership agreements to ensure that progress toward intended outcomes is being achieved. Make changes as needed to ensure that investments in workforce partnerships yield results.

Resources to Support the Formation of Regional Partnerships

General Partnership Resources

Trainings and Videos

  • Partnerships to Build Your Talent Pipeline: An online short course to learn about the important role partnerships play in identifying candidates with disabilities and how to collaborate effectively with key community organizations.
  • FALA Technologies: Manufacturing Career Opportunities: Employer Case Study: Learn about an innovative pre-apprenticeship program for people with disabilities in New York’s Hudson Valley, and how FALA Technologies partnered with the Resources Center for Accessible Living (RCAL), a community rehabilitation provider.

Partnerships for Specific Sectors or Groups:


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