The Staffing Industry and Aid to Persons with Disabilities

Mature and tired businesswoman working on computer until night.

Introduction

In addressing the complex problem of the millions of unemployed Americans with disabilities, it turns out that the Staffing Industry was, and is today, uniquely structured and positioned to play a critically important role. That role is in transitioning many thousands of these otherwise well-qualified and highly motivated people to become productive members of the workforce. More on the critical role of the staffing industry in this mission with its processes, and promising outcomes, will be discussed herein.

Background

On July 26, 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the “Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Modeled after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, one of the primary goals of the ADA legislation was to prohibit employment discrimination against persons with disabilities.  This would enhance their opportunities to be employed even when minor and low-cost accommodation might be necessary or advisable to ensure a smoother transition to the workforce.

Related ADA policy goals of the government were two-fold; to help mitigate the problem of labor shortages and to reduce the cost of support payments which in 1990 were about $106 billion.

At the time that ADA became law (1990) there were 12.8 million persons with disabilities and 61% of those were unemployed. Today there is an estimated 21 million disabled persons in the U.S. with an unemployment rate of about 55%. The dramatic increase in the number of disabled is due largely to population increase (+55M -1999 -2023) ) and a spike in disabilities due to “Long Covid’ which is a government approved category of disability.

So, the data shows, generally, that between 1990 and today there has been a 6% reduction (percentage reduction) in unemployed persons with disabilities, although there has been a great increase in the absolute numbers of persons with disabilities due to population increases. Obviously, there is more work to be done but the experience to date has been much more promising than the data seems to indicate. Still, a 6% reduction in the number of unemployed disabled persons amounts to 1.25 million.

Unique Role of the Staffing Industry.

In researching this story, I came across several articles on the ADA law and the efforts to increase employment among the disabled. Some of the most helpful were written by Professor Peter Blanck when he was at the University of Iowa’s college of Law and where he was the Director of their “Health Policy and Disability Center”. He is now at the College of Law at Syracuse University and chairman of the Burton Blatt Institute (bbi.syr.edu). He is still involved in ADA law and related community interests.

The article of his that I was most interested in was a 1999 report titled, “The Emerging Role of the Staffing Industry in the Employment of Persons with Disabilities.”  This article is actually a report on a study he conducted of the major staffing firm, Manpower, Inc., in their hiring efforts of persons with disabilities.

In addition to his report’s “Executive Summary, there are two other major sections that were most helpful. One of these recounted: “Ten Case Studies” where Manpower, Inc. very efficiently facilitated persons with disabilities into what the staffing industry calls “Temp to Perm” jobs which are designed to transition from temporary into full time employment.

Each case study briefly outlines the pertinent facts of each case including background, process, and outcomes.

The second major section of particular interest to me was his summary of his study’s five “Core Findings” which were:

  1. Unemployment to Employment (90% of individuals in study were at work within 10 days of applying to Manpower, Inc.)
  2. Workplace Accommodations (Costs Minimal)
  3. Staying at Work (60% went directly to permanent employment).
  4. Choice of Work (90% placed in Jobs in which they had an interest.
  5. Retaining Work that Pays (90% remained in workforce and at above minimum wage.

The “Executive Summary” gives the reader a good background understanding of the unique qualifications of the staffing industry to accomplish this kind of entry level project, i.e., “No employment to employment”. Temp Jobs, which are the industry’s specialty, are an easier transition from “no employment” and, at minimum, temp jobs add work experience that increases qualifications. Quite often these Temp positions turn directly into permanent placements.

While this report details the unique qualifications of the staffing industry, their work in the transition to employment, including its process and outcomes, the entire report seams geared to be a clear and concise roadmap for any company (not only staffing) looking to take on a similar project.

Solid Reasons.

The primary business reason to transition unemployed persons with disabilities into employment is that, then (1999) as now, there is a “tight” labor market together with large, mostly untapped, pool of qualified workers who would be delighted to be gainfully employed.

The social reasons are also significant in that the cost of supporting unemployed people is high, although with the potential to be greatly reduced. Also, gainfully employed persons with disabilities are productive, self-supporting, with an improved self-concept, and therefore, most likely, happier. This is good for the entire community.

The author of this study and reporting article, Professor Peter Blanck, has a unique educational background, especially for this type of project. He is an attorney who has studied, taught, and practiced ADA law, and also has a PhD in Social Psychology with expertise in Race, Ethnicity, “Disability and law”, as well as “Disability and social policy”.

Professor Blanck’s work with and for, the disabled, and Manpower’s work in successful hiring action and advocacy, plus the other companies who have joined them, are all working on a great project. It’s a “win-win-win”, for the disabled, the companies that employ them, and the entire community.

Random Notes.

After reading Professor Blanck’s study/report on Manpower, Inc. (Which disability hiring Manpower continues today) I called him and asked for a brief interview. He agreed. My first question was how he happened to get involved with Manpower. He responded that he simply called its then Chairman and CEO, Michael From stein, and made an appointment.

Of course, it did not hurt in securing the appointment, as well as Manpower’s cooperation in making his study, that he was a law professor teaching Disability law, Director of the Health Policy and Disability Center at the University of Iowa, and a Fellow with the Annenberg Foundation, etc.

By the way, The Annenberg Foundation describes itself as “A Philanthropic foundation dedicated to addressing the critical issues of our time through innovation, community, compassion and communications since 1989”.

So, it is no surprise that Annenberg was a sponsor of at least two other studies of Professor Blanck on the employment of persons with disabilities. Certainly, this is a “critical issue of our time” and one that needs “innovation, community, compassion, and communication”.

(Concluding Note: The American Staffing Association (ASA), as of 2020, has been involved in facilitating their membership (and others) to become involved in hiring the disabled via an “Alliance” with The US Dept of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP). We will be doing an article on their work in the very near future).

As Always, Stay Safe! Peace!