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Vol. LXII, No. 19
September 17, 2010
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Hiring Event Reaches Out to People with Disabilities, Veterans

On the front page...

NIH held its first-ever Hiring Event for Veterans and Persons with Disabilities on Aug. 31 at the Hyatt Regency in Bethesda. Representatives from a variety of institutes and centers welcomed over 100 job candidates who had already applied and been prescreened for a variety of professional, technical, scientific and administrative positions.

The all-day event was designed to help NIH find the best veterans and people with disabilities to support the NIH mission, said Valerie Gill, director of the Client Services Division of the Office of Human Resources. About 111 individuals would need to be hired to reach the goal of having 2 percent of the NIH workforce composed of people with disabilities, she said.

Continued...


  Staffing the Office of Human Resources table at the recent hiring event are (from l) Mable Chang, Carrie Williams and Brenda Morissette.  
  Staffing the Office of Human Resources table at the recent hiring event are (from l) Mable Chang, Carrie Williams and Brenda Morissette.  

Hiring veterans is also an emphasis for the Obama administration and NIH. To attract its target populations, HR ran advertisements in the Washington Post and reached out to selected military bases, as well as to placement services for people with disabilities. More than 400 applications arrived in response to the outreach, said Larry Chloupek, management liaison director in the Office of Intramural Research.

The event itself featured near-military precision: candidates were met at the hotel doors by greeters who escorted them to a waiting area where food and drink were plentiful. HR specialists were on hand for the hour-long interviews, along with hiring managers from 19 ICs. Accommodations were available for those needing interpreters or who relied on assist animals such as seeing-eye dogs. One candidate interviewed for a position by phone from a military base in Afghanistan. All attendees received goodie bags loaded with useful items and information about NIH.

“There has been a tremendous outpouring of support from across NIH,” said Lori Thompson of OHR, adding that some 50 volunteers and hiring managers were on hand, including a cadre of Presidential Management fellows and members of the Administrative Fellows Program.

Present at the hiring event on Aug. 31 were (from l) Chris Major, director of the Office of Human Resources, Lori Thompson and Valerie Gill of OHR and job candidate Michael Kawczynski of Wisconsin.

Present at the hiring event on Aug. 31 were (from l) Chris Major, director of the Office of Human Resources, Lori Thompson and Valerie Gill of OHR and job candidate Michael Kawczynski of Wisconsin.

The NIH Federal Credit Union and the NIH Recreation & Welfare Association also manned tables, to introduce potential new hires to the range of amenities available at NIH. The Foundation for Advanced Education in the Sciences, Inc., was also a sponsor.

The strong support was deeply appreciated by job candidate Michael Kawczynski of Wisconsin, who was interviewing for two jobs. Although currently unemployed—his spine was crushed in a construction accident and it took him 2 years to learn how to walk again—he proved an articulate advocate for the community of job-seekers who happen to have disabilities.

“There is a 47 percent unemployment rate for people with disabilities,” he reported. “And only 25 percent of the disabled population is even looking for work.” He said that disability-related gaps in employment history render people with disabilities virtually unemployable in private industry.

There is also a needless stigma attached to hiring people with disabilities, he said. “Most people [with disabilities] don’t need any accommodation at all.” And most are happy to discuss their disability with others. “We would rather tell you. It’s an opportunity to educate.”

Active in employment issues in his home state, Kawczynski applauded NIH’s efforts to reach out. “The telework opportunities at NIH are also very attractive,” he said. “A lot of people can’t relocate.”

Learning that NIH had prepared for the event in only 4 months, including a special session presented to participating hiring managers held prior to the event with experts on interviewing and hiring disabled individuals (including persons with mental/intellectual disabilities) and veterans, Kawczynski said, “I don’t know of any other organization that has done that.”

Though technically out of work, Kawczynski describes himself as “a consultant who is able to be an advocate.” He is also well-connected; the deputy director of the Office of Personnel Management has asked him to write a brief on the success of NIH’s hiring event. “The goal is to get all federal agencies aware of the need to hire people with disabilities,” he said.

“We are expecting a good return on our investment in this,” said OHR’s Gill, who launched a similar large-scale hiring event at her former employer, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. “I’m expecting NIH to make a lot of hires from this event.”

She noted that the most impressive candidates could receive job offers within 1-2 weeks, once reference checks are complete. “Our hiring managers are very enthusiastic about this [effort],” said Chris Major, director of OHR, who successfully sold NIH’s executive officers on the need for such an event.

Said one manager, Erin Goldstein of the National Library of Medicine, “Other managers should have come because they missed out on great people.” NIHRecord Icon


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