Centers for Independent Living Join with LEAD Center to Create American Job Center Partnerships to Advance Employment for Jobseekers with Disabilities
To help increase employment rates for job seekers with disabilities, the LEAD Center in its first year initiated a strong collaboration with the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL), the National Association of Workforce Development Professionals (NAWDP), and ODEP to develop a grassroots action plan and first-of-its-kind pilot project with Centers for Independent Living (CILs) to increase employment opportunities and outcomes for job seekers with disabilities. Participating CILs demonstrated past experience in working with job seekers with disabilities on employment, held expertise in benefits planning, had established linkages with AJCs in their areas, and each agreed to work with10 job seekers with disabilities. Selected CILs represent both rural and urban geographic areas across the country and served people across the spectrum of disability.
The five CILs participating in the LEAD Center project included Disability Rights and Resources, Birmingham, Ala.; IndependenceFirst, Milwaukee, Wisc.; Paraquad, St. Louis, Mo.; Montana Independent Living Project, Helena, Mont.; and Community Resources for Independent Living, Hayward, Calif.
Two primary goals of the CIL Demonstration Project were to: 1) to facilitate access to local AJC services for job seekers with disabilities by providing coaching and support on available AJC employment and training services—following the job seekers through the AJC process until employment goals are reached, and 2) to provide free disability awareness and technical assistance to AJC staff as requested.
The CILs began working with job seekers in June 2013. Online reporting and training instruments were developed for CILs to record jobseeker profiles and trainings provided to AJCs while monthly conference calls were held with CIL representatives, LEAD Center and ODEP staff.
The CIL Demonstration Project proved to be very successful as CILs have worked to date with 50 job seekers with disabilities, resulting in employment for 15 of those jobseekers, nearly one-third of the pilot participants, since June 1, 2013. Jobseeker ages ranged from 16 to 63 years old and represented a diverse cross section of people with disabilities.
CILs have cultivated partnerships with 16 AJCs and provided trainings to 74 AJC staff and Workforce Investment Board members. In addition, NAWDP has published two articles about the CIL Demonstration Project in their e-newsletter, disseminated each time to more than 3,500 workforce development professionals working in both the private and public sectors. The LEAD Center presented a panel discussion at the NCIL National Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2013 on the CIL Demonstration Project with three of the five project CILs participating as panelists.
To provide educational and other information for the CILs, the LEAD Center developed a CIL-AJC Toolkit in collaboration with ODEP and NCIL, “Improving Employment for Job Seekers with Disabilities through the American Job Center System.”
Best practices established and lessons learned while the demonstration project is ongoing will assist the LEAD Center, ODEP and NCIL in the development of a replicable model of the project for other CILs across the United States to follow. The final report about this project will be published on the LEAD Center website in 2014.