Having problems finding qualified workers for your community? LeadingAge Illinois reached out to their state Department of Human Services Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) for help after hearing about a state program that provides training to disabled individuals to work in a variety of settings. As it turns out, this program was the tip of the iceberg: the Illinois DRS is part of a nationwide network of 80 vocational rehabilitation programs that match employers with workers. Each of these programs has a single point of contact that works directly with an employer and who make up what’s dubbed a National Employment Team (NET). The program has 25,000 staff and a budget of $3.5 billion.
The vocational rehabilitation program is funded with federal dollars to help support individuals with disabilities find jobs that match their skills, talents, and abilities. While each program may vary slightly in its services, the overall goal is the same throughout the US. Each program has various local offices throughout the state. LeadingAge can contact the national office to put you in touch with your NET Member.
The first step in the process of finding a job-ready employee is a conversation. The program wants to know you as a “customer” and learns your needs such as the type of employee and skills you are seeking. In addition, they want you to understand the program. The goal is to make sure the individuals they work with have the talents and training to do the job you need.
The NET provides considerable, free support to businesses:
- Internships, customized training or on-the-job training
- Recruitment and referral
- Staff training on disabilities awareness, relevant laws, and assistive technology in the workplace
- Diversity program strategies
- Retention programs for all workers who develop or acquire a disability
- Consulting, technical assistance, and support
- Financial supports
- Employee assistance
Factors for Success:
- Understand the need for a diverse workforce
- Understand more about the world of disability and how these individuals can be a match for your needs
- The State of Illinois has placed thousands of individuals in a variety of settings, including aging services, and has seen growth very year
- Over the last 5 years, Illinois has placed more than 25,000 individuals or about 5,000 average per year
- Nationally, the program has placed between 250,000-300,000 individuals annually to achieve employment outcomes
- One individual featured on their “Success Stories” website is a certified nurse assistant who DRS helped maintain her job in the field of aging services
Need more information?
Contact Susan Hildebrandt, vice president, workforce initiatives at LeadingAge, who will contact NET.