People with disabilities can work and want to work. Given the growing body of evidence that
demonstrates that workers with disabilities meet or exceed the job performance of co-workers
without disabilities, the continuing high unemployment rate and low labor force participation
rate of people with disabilities deprive the nation of a valuable pool of talent. Increasing the
employment of people with disabilities produces significant benefits to the economy, the
nation, and people with disabilities themselves.
The National Technical Assistance and Research (NTAR) Leadership Center at Rutgers
University chose to address this issue by conducting research on employer and marketdriven initiatives to recruit, hire, train, and retain people with disabilities. Using a case study
approach, NTAR Leadership Center researchers selected 13 diverse examples from around the
nation of partnerships — between employers and trusted workforce intermediaries — with a
track record of helping employers recruit, hire, train, and retain employees with disabilities.
Over the course of six months, researchers conducted in-depth research and interviewed
and visited leaders and practitioners at the heart of these business-public collaborations. The
goal of this research was to identify successful elements of these strategies and offer lessons
that can be learned by employers and employer organizations, workforce development and
disability service organizations, and federal, state, and local policymakers.
While each partnership has its own distinctive qualities, NTAR Leadership Center researchers
found several overall themes, identified as key Ready and Able findings:
Employers respond to a business case for employing people with disabilities.
Employers believe that people with disabilities who possess the skills needed for the job
add value to the employer and positively affect the “bottom line.” Successful experiences
with qualified workers with disabilities increase the employer’s willingness to expand
employment opportunities. Because employers tend to listen to each other, business-tobusiness marketing of the value of employing people with disabilities is most powerful.
Innovative collaborations with and between workforce-supplying organizations
enable employer efforts to recruit, hire, train, and support employees with disabilities.
Employers do not want to have to maintain relationships with many varied workforcesupplying organizations — they find it daunting to learn the intricacies of the workforce
and disability service worlds. Accordingly, they prefer a single point of contact to
coordinate needed assistance and supports they require to recruit and hire. In some cases,
intermediaries organize and coordinate supports and provide technical assistance on
workforce issues, including disability-specific issues.
Collaborations ensure that workers are qualified and productive. Many effective
projects feature internships and mentorships, encouraging hands-on guidance and work
experience. Others provide opportunities for workers to earn credentials and degrees for
jobs with good wages and benefits, or offer access to career ladders, workplace training, and skills. Needed supports and accommodations are provided to enable employees to be
successful once on the job.
Successful collaborations nurture and reward continuous leadership. Leaders in the
partnerships studied showed a willingness to develop, coordinate, nurture, and manage
The chapters in this report are organized to highlight different partnership models.