OPM holds disability employment training

Event highlights resources at hiring officials’ disposal as they seek to implement a July presidential directive.

The Office of Personnel Management on Tuesday held a training event on ways hiring managers and human resources personnel can increase the number of disabled employees in the federal workforce.

OPM Deputy Director Christine Griffin organized the training in response to President Obama's July executive order calling on federal agencies to hire an additional 100,000 disabled workers during the next five years. President Clinton originally set that goal in a 2000 directive, but according to Obama, "Few steps were taken to implement that executive order in subsequent years."

Two hundred and eighty-five participants registered for Tuesday's event, some traveling from as far as California to attend. OPM also offered a webcast for those who couldn't make it.

Kareem Dale, special assistant to the president for disability policy, kicked off the day with an overview of Obama's executive order and a discussion of agencies' role in implementing the directive. Angela Bailey, deputy associate director for recruitment and diversity at OPM, showed recently developed training videos.

Joyce Bender, owner and chief executive officer of Bender Consulting Services, highlighted a new list of disabled individuals interested in working for the federal government, which could make it easier for agencies to meet the executive order's goal. Bender's consulting firm contracted with OPM and worked in collaboration with the Chief Human Capital Officers Council to create the register.

Participants also took part in a "robust" hour-long question-and-answer session, according to Griffin. "Everyone was very positive and eager to get things going," she said.

A number of participants expressed concern about retaining employees with disabilities Griffin noted. She said agencies must make a better effort to find out why these workers are leaving, something the federal government has not traditionally studied.

Griffin said the forum was the first of its kind since Obama issued the executive order. OPM will evaluate feedback from participants before conducting further training.

The executive order calls for OPM to issue guidance on strategies to hire and recruit disabled workers. This guidance is in the clearance process, and Griffin expects it to be available to agencies by next week. After the guidance is issued, agencies will have 120 days to devise their own strategies for implementing the executive order.