Help in Hiring the Disabled

A new GSA program rolling out nationwide in this month promises to streamline the hiring of temporary administrative support personnel at federal agencies while creating jobs for blind and severely disabled workers.

The program, called "The Road Ahead", got its start at the General Services Administration's General Products Center in Fort Worth, Texas, where price/cost analyst Sherry Rogers was happy with the blind and disabled temps the center had hired, but frustrated by the 45-day purchase orders she had to execute to bring the workers in. "If you need someone to come type, you need them today," says Rogers.

So Rogers created and piloted a program that streamlines the process for hiring blind and severely disabled temporary workers and provides incentives for agencies to do so.

Here's how it works: The Road Ahead supplies a listing of nonprofits, usually branches of Goodwill or the Lighthouse for the Blind, that act as placement organizations for the program. Agencies contact the participating nonprofit in their area, tell them what kind of temporary assistance they need and the nonprofits work to fill their request.

Incentives to participate include:

  • Money. On average, the hourly wages of temporary workers hired through The Road Ahead are 17 to 27 percent lower than wages paid to temps hired through private sector companies. While the worker is paid commensurate with federal employee wages, Goodwill and the Lighthouse for the Blind have agreed to charge a commission for placement services that is below market rate. In fact, the 10 percent commission the nonprofits' charge doesn't even cover their overhead in most cases. (FSS earns a 1 percent commission for administering the program.)
  • Time. Nonprofit organizations that participate in the program are designated "directed sources," which means agencies can hire temps through them without having to go through a lengthy procurement. The program has filled requests for temporary help "as quick as the next morning," Rogers says.
  • Choice. Temporary services companies send agencies whoever they want. When agencies hire temps through The Road Ahead, they get to select workers themselves.
Temps hired through the program bring their own adaptive equipment. Agencies only need to provide equipment that they would provide to an able-bodied temporary worker.
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