Telework firm urges federal training on hiring disabled workers

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By Ed O'Keefe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 28, 2010; 9:17 PM

Almost half of human resources officials responsible for hiring and retaining federal workers say they have not received adequate training on how to manage and retain employees with severe disabilities, according to the results of a survey by the Telework Exchange and the Federal Managers Association set for release Monday. Many are also unfamiliar with mandates designed to promote the hiring of disabled applicants and hiring rules that allow for the noncompetitive hiring of disabled people.

Though 71 percent of the respondents said their agencies are committed to hiring disabled workers, 40 percent said they have not received adequate training to effectively manage disabled employees, according to the survey. The Telework Exchange, continuing its push for advancing teleworking, and the Federal Managers Association partnered on the study in advance of a conference set for next week that will press the Obama administration on the teleworking option for federal workers.

"Telework is certainly one way that would allow many people with disabilities to utilize their talents on behalf of the government, while overcoming barriers that may keep them out of the workplace," said Todd Wells, executive director of the Federal Managers Association.

The survey also noted that 45 percent of federal hiring managers surveyed said they have not received adequate training on retaining disabled employees. The voluntary online survey of 513 federal hiring officers from across the government was taken between Jan. 25 and Feb. 5, roughly a month before the Office of Personnel Management held a training session for more than 600 federal hiring managers about hiring and retaining disabled workers.

During the session OPM unveiled a new online training tool for hiring officials that instructs them on how to use Schedule A, a noncompetitive hiring waiver that permits agencies to hire severely disabled individuals, an OPM spokesman said. The agency is developing a similar training tool for disabled applicants wishing to be hired under the waiver.

"We are working diligently to attract and hire individuals with disabilities," OPM spokesman Edmund Byrnes said in a statement.

OPM and the Labor Department's Office of Disability Policy also will hold a hiring fair on April 26 at the Washington Convention Center. More than 70 agencies with job openings have been invited to search a database with more than 4,000 resumes of disabled applicants. Agencies are encouraged to schedule interviews with disabled applicants at the April event, OPM said.

A House committee last week approved a bill that would require the federal government to develop plans to expand the policy across the federal workforce. Agencies would be required to hire a telework managing officer, responsible for overseeing implementation of the policy. By the end of fiscal 2011 OPM Director John Berry, a teleworking advocate, hopes to double the number of teleworkers from the 102,900 of fiscal year 2009.

The White House said Kareem Dale, President Obama's special assistant on disability policy, will address the survey's findings at next week's conference.


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