In 2012, the government of Canada collaborated with Canadian business to explore the recruitment and retention of people with disabilities. The resulting document, ‘Re-thinking Disabilities in the Private Sector’, outlined a number of barriers and strategies around ‘community partnerships’ between business and employment service providers. The issues of supply and demand, accessible talent pools and the desire for a ‘one stop shop’ experience were all identified. Business has not always recognized that the real strength of employment service providers is their ability to customize ‘talent matching’ for employers – ensuring that only those candidates who are invested in the available position are put forward. This is the element of supported employment that really pays off for employers and results in retention and work performance.
Employers who have taken the step of reaching out to a prospective ‘community partner’ are frequently put off by individual service provider agencies declaring “we don’t have anyone interested in that position right now.” One of the benefits of a Service Provider Network – a collective of employment service agencies who work collaboratively is that a larger talent pool of job-seekers becomes accessible to employers seeking new solutions to their personnel needs. The ‘one stop shop’ is thereby achieved without sacrificing any best practices in employment inclusion service delivery.
The benefits of an Employment Service Network are many and include;
- The aforementioned larger talent pool
- Sharing resources to reduce administrative costs (forms, documents, policies, etc.)
- Sharing knowledge and experience together
- Collaborating to host events and staff development
- Measuring and understanding collective outcomes
- Building the capacity of network members to achieve their missions
It’s not always easy and there will always be bumps and potholes along the road to partnership but our work is too important for ‘temporary discomfort’ to preclude better results for the people we serve. Successful partnerships and collaborations must be based on common values and common goals. Clearly the potential for employment inclusion services to work together to extend their reach and impact is significant. It’s important that business see the service provider community as responsive, knowledgeable and able to meet their needs effectively – and it’s important that services build their capacity. Networks present an ongoing mechanism for learning and improvement as well as an opportunity to better meet the needs of business. They take a bit of time, patience and commitment but, if cared for, networks offer a lot of potential in a variety of important areas.