Federal Partnerships Creating Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities

logo: Internal Revenue Service (IRS)logo: National Employment Team (NET)

By Kathy West-Evans, Director of Business Relations, CSAVR

VR and the IRS: A Partnership that Produces Positive Returns

To fulfill its workforce needs across multiple states, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) partners with the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation’s (CSAVR) National Employment Team (NET), and the relationship is producing positive returns for the agency and candidates with disabilities alike. 

Reflecting a “dual-customer” approach to workforce development, the NET is a cross-state team of business relations representatives who both collaborate and function as single points of contact at state vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies to support employers of all sizes, including those with multi-state footprints, like the IRS.

To start, the IRS trained NET business relations representatives on the agency’s many employment opportunities, which include not only permanent, full-time positions, but also seasonal and temporary jobs and internships. This training also addressed Schedule A—a noncompetitive hiring authority that facilitates the hiring of qualified people with disabilities by federal agencies—as well as how to help individuals prepare a federal resume. Furthermore, the NET and IRS worked together to implement VR-sponsored on-the-job training with support from other federal partners, including OSERS’ Rehabilitation Services Administration.

The partnership was forged in 2007 by retired Program Analyst Barbara Zivkovich in the agency’s former Accessibility Office. Later, responsibility for the partnership moved to the IRS’s Office of Wage and Investment’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Office, and it also expanded to include the chief accessibility coordinator and disability and veteran programs. Today, the IRS team, including Disability Employment Coordinator Sandy Crowl and Veteran Employment Coordinator Michael Knippel, works with the NET to build a cross-state talent pipeline of individuals with disabilities—many of whom have not only obtained employment with the agency, but also advanced within its ranks.

Florida Division of Blind Services

logo: Florida Division of Blind Services (DBS)

When the IRS had job openings in the Jacksonville, Florida area for a seasonal bilingual (Spanish) contact service representative last year, Florida Division of Blind Services (DBS) assisted in filling it quickly and effectively. DBS worked with Brenda Bentley-Parrish, schedule A employment coordinator and program analyst in the IRS’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Office to understand the position requirements in order to identify qualified candidates and assist them in navigating the Schedule A application process. Out of five candidates who applied, a DBS customer was offered the position. This person, who is blind and had not worked in seven years, reports that her job helps her feel productive and more involved in her community, and that the training she received has given her new skills and support to succeed going forward.

Utah State Office of Rehabilitation

logo: Utah State Office of Rehabilitation (USOR)

The IRS’s partnership with the NET has also been fruitful in Utah. According to staff in the Utah State Office of Rehabilitation’s (USOR) South Valley District, key to success has been the dedication and commitment of the IRS’s team, including HR Specialist Genia Wells and others, who clearly communicate both the agency’s workforce needs and the Schedule A hiring process. For one recent hire, this included facilitating accommodations for orientation and onboarding. As part of this, USOR and the IRS worked together to devise strategies for completing onboarding procedures virtually due to COVID-19, for example, fingerprinting for security purposes and administering an oath of office. The IRS and USOR also coordinated with the Utah Center for Assistive Technology to obtain an augmentative communication device to assist, if needed, during the process. Close collaboration has also led to successful outcomes in the Ogden District, where USOR clients have been hired by the IRS via both Schedule A and the traditional competitive process. In fact, one USOR client from the Ogden District has now been employed by the IRS for 13 years.

Special thanks to Florida Division of Blind Services (Stacy Smith) and Utah State Office of Rehabilitation (Leah Lobato, Victoria Smeltzer, Cheryl Thomas and Shelly Sorenson) for contributing to this story.

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