CBP, Labor team up for disabilities hiring initiative

Thursday - 1/12/2012, 11:15am EST

Franklin Jones, executive director of CBP's office of diversity and civil rights

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Customs and Border Protection is hoping one of its new projects can help your agency hire more people with disabilities. The President has mandated that agencies increase the number of people with disabilities, and CBP has joined with the Labor Department in the hope of doing just that, creating a model that other agencies can use.

"The purpose of the agreement is to bring structure to how we identify, recruit, hire, retain and advance individuals with disabilities," said Franklin Jones, executive director of CBP's office of diversity and civil rights. "While there are regulations in place from [the Office of Personnel Management] that require applicants to simply submit their applications to agencies and not to any specific vacancy, there's not a lot of structure to that process."

With this new agreement, Jones told The Federal Drive with Tom Temin, CBP can educate managers and hiring officials on the benefits of hiring individuals with disabilities. It can then provide candidates for the agencies' vacant jobs.

Franklin Jones, executive director of CBP's office of diversity and civil rights (CBP photo)

The agreement not only brings that strategy over to CBP, it also provides the agency with the resources that the Labor Department has already assembled. "Labor has access to programs that train individuals with disabilities, colleges and universities that have programs that identify highly qualified candidates."

The key structure for CBP is how it does it outreach and identifies candidates for jobs. "Their resumes will then be forwarded to hiring managers and we'll match the skill set of the applicant with the need of the hiring official," Jones said.

In the past, the application and hiring process saw job seekers applying online at USAJobs.gov and then waiting to be hired. In that process, managers hoped they could find candidates with the right qualifications. Under the new agreement, CBP hiring officials will manage the application pool, so they know they'll be getting qualified candidates that can be matched to appropriate jobs.

"It really is a change in the mindset of how we fill positions internally, from a staffing perspective," Jones said.

All jobs will be open to people with disabilities. The key will be focusing on the skills that the individual brings to the job. "The information about the candidate's disability will not appear on their resume for the hiring manager," Jones said. "But, the staffing specialist who certified the credentials of the candidate will know that the applicant has a disability."

According to Jones, the hiring model developed by Labor is something that any agency could use to increase the number of employees with disabilities the agency has on staff. "It's not just about hiring," he said. "It's also about retaining them, advancing them and ensuring that they have a meaningful career with the federal government."

One of the tenets CBP agreed to when it signed on with Labor's hiring structure was to develop a set of best practices that could be advanced to other agencies.

"As with any initiative, it's only as good as the people who are actually responsible for implementing it," Jones said. "That would be the hiring officials. So, we will invest a great deal in helping the hiring managers understand the value of hiring highly qualified individuals for the program."