Institute Brief 23
By: Allison Fleming, Diane Loud
The national percentage of people of working age with disabilities who are employed continues to hover around 37%, compared with 80% for their peers without disabilities (U.S. Census Bureau, 2005). However, according to the Harris Poll (2004), 67% of people with disabilities who are not currently working would like to be (Dixon, Kurse, & Van Horn, 2003). In the late 1990s, a Presidential Task Force began work on improving the employment rate for adults with disabilities, a national priority that was further supported by the New Freedom Initiative of 2001, creating a bipartisan effort. Despite these initiatives, the rate of employment for people with disabilities has not increased.
“One agency is not going to be able to change the numbers of people with disabilities who are unemployed. Collaboration is necessary if we want to see a difference.”
–Gregg Ames, Mass Rehabilitation Commission
While many people are involved in the effort to improve this employment picture, much of the responsibility for helping people with disabilities secure employment falls on the shoulders of job developers. Typically, job developers act as the bridge between employment services, job seekers, and businesses seeking qualified employees. Good job developers need knowledge, persistence, creativity, and a superior ability to build relationships.
A successful job developer knows how to collaborate with others. Toward that end, one strategy increasing in popularity involves networking with fellow placement professionals working at other provider agencies or for the state. Referred to as an employment networking group, this model offers job developers the opportunity to significantly increase their networking base and thus their own efficiency.