Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Employer Preferences in Hiring Youth with Disabilities

Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Employer Preferences in Hiring Youth with Disabilities

Article excerpt

Employment outcomes for youth with disabilities transitioning from school to work have persistently lagged behind their non-disabled peers (Fogg & Harrington, 2010), with a 2013 report from the U.S. Department of Labor indicating that only 26.4% of youth with disabilities are employed after high school compared to almost 64% of their nondisabled peers (Office of Disability Employment Policy, 2013). Among the most effective interventions for improving post-school employment outcomes for youth with disabilities is having paid employment prior to school exit (Simonsen & Neubert, 2013; Carter, Austin, & Trainor, 2012; Landmark, Ju, & Zhang, 2010; Test et al., 2009). Employment specialists, or job development staff, often play a significant role in assisting these youth to secure a job (Luecking, 2008; Migliore, Butterworth, Nord, Cox, 2012). Not surprisingly, a number of recent books, articles, training programs and technical assistance materials have focused on job development strategies (e.g., Luecking, 2009; Targett & Griffin, 2012). Based on these suggested practices, multiple organizations have developed competencies and professional standards for employment specialists (e.g. The Division on Career Development and Transition of the Council for Exceptional Children, Associations for Persons in Supported Employment, NCWD/Y). One notable lack in many of these resources is inadequate attention to soliciting feedback directly from employers regarding their opinions of the job development practices that motivate them to hire transitioning youth with disabilities.

One of the few, but widely cited, studies available on employer perspectives was conducted for the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy (Domzal, Houtenville & Sharma, 2008). This study surveyed a nationally representative sample of businesses. Business respondents commented about preferred job development practices related to representing job applicants with disabilities. Several key themes were identified, including: (a) disability program staff documenting the added value of the applicant/employee to the organization, (b) documenting performance capacity, (c) and responding specifically to business' bottom line. In addition, companies across size and sector indicated that top management commitment to hiring individuals with disabilities, as well as including people with disabilities into their diversity recruitment goals and practices were positively associated with hiring decisions. Using the same data set, Jasper and Walkhart (2012) identified availability of on-site job coach support services, disability awareness training, and mentoring to be preferred strategies specifically for employers in the leisure/hospitality sector. Several other studies regarding employment practices for people with disabilities found similar themes, including the value of employment support services offered by community-based employment programs (Ju, Roberts & Zhang, 2013) and the importance of the job developer demonstrating the added value employees with disabilities offer the business, as compared to the costs of hiring individuals with disabilities (Simonsen, Fabian and Luecking, 2008; Hernandez et al., 2008; Waterhouse, Kimberly, Jonas & Glover, 2010)..

In this study, we explore factors contributing to employer decisions to hire youth with disabilities who were participating in a national multi-site program. The present study focuses on demand-side perspectives by asking employers to identify factors that influence their decision to hire youth with disabilities. The study was conducted using data from the national multi-site Bridges from School to Work program (Bridges) administered by the Marriott Foundation for People with Disabilities (Tilson, Luecking& Donovan, 1994). The Bridges program conducts skill assessments, career planning, job development, placement, evaluation, and follow-up services to urban secondary students with disabilities in seven U. …

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