New Year’s Resolution: Expand Your Candidate Pool

By: Taryn Oesch

Employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that in 2017, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities was 9.2 percent – more than twice the rate for people without disabilities. At a time when competition for employees is fierce – there are over 7 million open jobs, as of the end of October – why not look to such an unemployed (and under-employed) group of people for job candidates?


After all, employers of people with disabilities frequently report success. Autism@Work programs have resulted in improved productivity, innovation and employee engagement, and companies with hiring initiatives aimed at people with intellectual/developmental disabilities (IDD) rate those employees as “good” or “very good” in most performance measures.


Now is a good time to start looking more carefully at your hiring processes and candidate pool. In addition to the large number of open jobs and relatively low number of more “traditional” job candidates, there is more support than ever for both people with disabilities and the employers wanting to hire them. Assistive technology is making leaps and bounds, and the accommodations required to support people with disabilities range in complexity but can be simple and inexpensive. Organizations like The Power of the Dream offer advice and support for companies looking to innovate in this area, and even such major institutions as the World Economic Forum are considering more carefully the imperative of inclusion and how to make it happen.


Last month, I joined a working group of representatives from state, local and federal governments; community organizations; private companies; and philanthropic and academic institutions brought together by SourceAmerica and The Lab at the Office of Personnel Management. Our charge is to gain a better understanding of the current state of disability employment in the U.S. and the changes needed to create a more inclusive future. Through discussions and workshops, we will create a map of the systems of disability employment in the U.S. and a report with our recommendations for change. Our first meeting was in December, and I am hopeful that, due to the people and organizations involved in this project (including, importantly, self-advocates with disabilities), we will be able to start affecting real change this year.

Here at The Power of the Dream, we are dedicated this year, as every year, to helping people with disabilities find meaningful employment. With our new jobs portal being launched later in 2019, we are also excited to expand our support of companies looking to hire from this diverse, skilled talent pool. Together with the advocates, self-advocates and employers of the Triangle area, let’s make 2019 a year of real inclusion.