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Chris Sutarno and Robert Eichvald
Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB)
The CNIB Employment Accommodation Service (EAS) is a job placement program that uses a unique mix of technology, workplace accommodation, and marketing. Its mission is to enhance access and support integration of persons who are blind, visually impaired and deafblind (BVI) into the Canadian workforce. This presentation describes the rationale behind the program and the key differentiators that have made it successful and which could potentially be applied to placement of other disability groups.
History/Rationale for Program:
The CNIB is a national agency that governs the provision of services to Canadians who experience vision loss. Traditionally, employment services have been managed locally at the district level. This has been effective at identifying clients and making them aware of local job opportunities. However, there are no means to know how many BVI job seekers exist across Canada. Also, BVI job seekers do not have a support infrastructure to expand their search and locate opportunities outside their immediate area.
In 2000, a CNIB survey of 105 Canadian employers revealed three key messages with respect to employment of BVI clients. Employers are:
Employers are open to hiring people with vision disability but know neither how to locate qualified candidates nor how to integrate them into their workplace.
Therefore, the EAS was established with two goals. Firstly, to provide access to participation in the Canadian Labour Market for BVI job seekers via a concentrated marketing strategy that informs employers of the abilities of blind job seekers. Secondly, once informed of the abilities of blind job seekers, to further enable employers to hire BVI job seekers through comprehensive employment accommodation.
The EAS was setup to offer three interdependent components: Professional Recruitment Service, Employment Accommodation Consulting, and Program Marketing
Professional Recruitment Service
The first step for the EAS was to develop a product to market - namely, a pool of BVI job seekers to recruit from. With the objective to make this a nationwide resource, an internet-based solution was selected. The CNIB arranged a partnership with Workopolis.com - Canada's largest internet-based career site with over one million resumes and 30,000 job postings on file. The CNIB was given its own web page (http://cnib.workopolis.com) on the Workopolis site and allowed use of their resume database to create a "mini" EAS resume database. Although the CNIB database is located on the Workopolis site, it operates, for all practical purposes separately and distinctly. While the resumes are shared with Workopolis, there is no information that identifies the job seeker as BVI unless the individual has chosen to do so. The CNIB page and registration process were modified by Workopolis to make the program accessible to screen readers.
Job seekers are referred to the EAS via local job developers, website notification, and partner organizations. Intake interviews with each potential candidate are conducted by an EAS member. Entrance to the program is granted to those candidates who are deemed "job-ready" by the intake process. To date, the database contains over 300 qualified job seekers. The database is accessible, via password, by CNIB staff or selected employer recruiters from any computer terminal with internet access. The database can be searched using various criteria including keyword, occupation, location, skill-set, education, salary expectation, and willingness to relocate.
Employers can post jobs to the web site, search the database on-line or request a specific recruitment. In the case of the latter, EAS staff will assess the job requirements, search the database, pre-screen worthy job seekers, and refer key candidates for interview.
Employment Accommodation Consulting
The second service is intended to further encourage the hiring of BVI candidates by easing any uncertainties about how an employer would integrate them into their workplace and workforce. The CNIB has a highly skilled team of Employment Accommodation Consultants in place across the country that is ready to assist with the transition to work. Our professional consultants have expert knowledge of the latest technical aids and job accommodation techniques for BVI clients. They possess varied backgrounds including: ergonomics, software development, engineering, rehabilitation, job development, and social work.
Once an employer has decided to hire a CNIB job seeker, the employment accommodation consultant visits the worksite to assess the job and determine the particular accommodation needs in consultation with the employer, direct supervisor, co-workers and the employee. The consultant then recommends technical aids, suggests accommodations to the physical work environment, and provides awareness training to immediate supervisors, co-workers, and whole organizations. The focus of this activity is determining the most cost effective solution that best meets the employee's needs.
The EAS program has been aggressively marketed by a dedicated National Marketing and Employer Liaison. This included:
Currently underway is a direct mail campaign that includes an Employer Awareness Kit and trial access to the on-line database. The Accommodation Consultants are also active in marketing the program internally to district offices.
The program has assisted in 100 placements in its first 18 months. Considering the first six months was focused on building the database and recruiting clients, we feel the placement rate indicates a high level of success. In addition to the placements, there have been 500 intake interviews that have led to the entrance of 400 new candidates into the database. The job placements cover a wide spectrum of industry and job types including banking, government, healthcare, broadcast and factory settings.
We consider this program a success based on the number of placements we have had over a relatively short period of time. While this is not the first database of a disabled population, the holistic approach of the program addresses multiple challenges that a disabled job seeker faces. The differentiators of this program are as follows:
On-line Database Technology - Internet technology has enabled vastly superior communication of job opportunities and candidate availability. This is in terms of content and timeliness. Surprisingly, several placements have involved relocation to other cities, provinces and even across the country. Knowing that we have this database of BVI clients, employers with specific Diversity objectives can bypass any uncertainty and awkwardness surrounding disclosure.
National Advantage - Having a nationwide database reflects the changing labour market where job seekers (even BVI) are willing to relocate to take on job opportunities that best suit them. The geographic distribution of our Accommodation Consultants ensures our clients receive timely and expert consultation . This expanded exposure of both employers and job seekers has proven more effective than the old local job placement model.
Expert Consultants and Best Practices - The main challenge in accommodating people with disabilities is the breadth of expertise required. It is very difficult to find that within any individual. We can honestly say that our consultants form an expert team in the field of accommodation of BVI persons. With their combined experiences, they have built a shared database of best practice accommodation solutions
Marketing and Employer Liaison - the relationships established with employers has significantly raised the awareness of the capabilities of BVI workers. It has also exposed job seekers in the database to the "hidden" job market where opportunities are brought directly to the Liaison rather than via traditional channels. Employers are willing to do this because they have had good success with the program previously and recognize the value it brings them to come directly to the program.
Job Placements "no strings attached" - Clients are placed via this program based on merit and qualifications. There are no subsidies attached to the hiring of these individuals. This program operates as a professional placement service for BVI Canadians.
This program represents a departure from the traditional employment paradigm used by many disability groups which is based on supported work environments and wage subsidies. Our remaining challenges are:
To increase the candidate database. This requires not only an improvement and increase of the referral channels but also a better understanding of how many BVI persons of employment age (especially job seekers).
To increase the usage of the database by employers. If employers access the database directly and frequently, the likelihood they will find a BVI candidate who meets their needs increases. Improvements to the usability of the website and its search engine are required to encourage employer usage. It would also assist CNIB staff in matching clients with opportunities.
To explore other best practices on placing disable persons and incorporate them into this program where possible. Whether it be a mentoring program, internships, training, job readiness preparation, etc. The more resources our clients have, the greater the likelihood of placement.
This program is generously funded by the Human Resources Development Canada Opportunities Fund.
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