OPM tries to make disability hiring easier

Monday - 11/1/2010, 3:46pm EDT

Christine Griffin, Deputy Director, Office of Personnel Management

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By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

Faced with a government-wide goal of hiring 100,000 people with disabilities by 2015, the Office of Personnel Management is developing a new set of online tools to boost the chances of agencies' success.

OPM hired Bender Consulting Services in July to provide a list of 50 qualified people with disabilities a month to help kick-start the search and hiring across government.

"We are in the third month of this contract so we have 150 names, and anyone at the agencies can get the contact list, see the background of the candidates and then decide if they want to request a resume," said Christine Griffin, OPM's deputy director, in an interview with Federal News Radio. "Right now the Justice Department is interviewing a number of candidates and has hired at least two off the list. We are hoping this gives agencies -- and we know it's just a drop in the bucket of what we need -- an opportunity to find people more easily and more readily. And hopefully it will give them the impetus to reach out to other resources."

Agencies can look for candidates in the database around the jobs identified by OPM and the Chief Human Capital Officer's Council as most needed in government:

  • Human resources
  • Technology
  • Contracting
  • Contact or customer service
  • Budget or accounting positions
  • Administrative assistants
  • Clerks

Griffin said people with disabilities make up about five percent of the overall federal workforce, and people with targeted disabilities, which tend to be the most severe, make up less than one percent as of 2009.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics found in August that the federal government employs about 2.9 percent of all people with disabilities. BLS also found that agencies employ 3.2 percent of all men with disabilities, and 2.7 percent of all women, who are considered disabled

Griffin said Bender Consulting will pre-qualify these candidates to ensure they are eligible to be hired under Schedule A procedures. All people with disabilities are eligible under Schedule A, which lets agencies bring on new employees non-competitively.

In addition to the database of potential applicants with disabilities, OPM is developing online training on how best to use Schedule A and a broader training course aimed at both federal HR managers and applicants.

"Agencies need to remember that and not over-complicate things when using Schedule A," Griffin said.

OPM held the first of what it said will be many in-person training courses Oct. 26. Griffin said the HR managers and other federal hiring managers packed the room at OPM to learn about the applicant database as well as the plans each agency must develop on how they will increase the number of people with disabilities working in their organizations.

"We gave an overview of the executive order, and remember this is not a new concept so we restated information they should know or need to know about providing reasonable accommodations," Griffin said. "We reminded them there is a centralized accommodation program, known as CAP, and let them know about their obligations to accommodate people who are injured on the job."

OPM will issue guidance in the coming months on how agencies should develop their hiring plans. Griffin said it's in the clearance process now. Agencies will have 120 days to create their plans after the OPM guidance comes out.

"The guidance will address model recruitment and hiring strategies," she said. "It will lay out what plans should look like. It will require agencies to designate a senior official responsible for this effort. Agencies will need to outline what their approach will be and set their own goals. Instead of saying to each agency that they must hit certain amount, they will have to look at who they are and what their hiring plans are for next five years."

OPM will be checking on agency progress on a quarterly basis. Griffin said agencies will not have to report their progress to OPM. Instead, OPM will see the results as agencies report all hiring numbers every three months.

Griffin said several agencies could serve as models for others in government when it comes to hiring people with disabilities. The Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Security Agency are two agencies that has had success over the years, Griffin said.

"NSA figured out long time ago that there is this untapped pool of talent, and they believe they can accommodate anything," Griffin said. "NSA has an accommodation center that is amazing. They started with Bender Consulting first. NSA plans on doing extensive hiring in the next year."

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