Work Without Limits partners with National Organization on Disability to connect college students with disabilities to professional opportunities

April 18, 2017

In response to a bleak national employment outlook facing college graduates with disabilities, the National Organization on Disability (NOD) today announced a creative new effort to bring higher education professionals and employers together in Boston, to both identify more employment opportunities for students with disabilities and to develop new methods of college recruiting to address the issue long-term. UMass Medical School’s Work Without Limits is a partner in this new program.

At an event today on the campus of Northeastern University, representatives from The Coca-Cola Foundation presented a $200,000 grant to NOD to kick-start the innovative, three-year pilot program, for which The Coca-Cola Foundation will be the lead sponsor.

“Our nation’s universities have become increasingly skilled at ensuring accommodations on campus for students with disabilities, however, most are not as equipped at preparing students with disabilities for the workforce,” said NOD President Carol Glazer. “The result is that only 25-percent of college graduates with disabilities are working either full- or part-time. With the The Coca-Cola Foundation’s generous support, we can launch this innovative pilot program here in Boston to get these talented young men and women started in rewarding professional careers. We thank Northeastern for hosting us today, as they are an example of a university getting it right.”

To design and implement the Campus to Careers pilot, NOD has partnered with Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities (COSD) an organization that has worked for 17 years to connect such college students and graduates with employers, and Work Without Limits, a Massachusetts consortium of employers dedicated to strengthening disability workforce inclusion practices.

"The Coca-Cola Foundation is pleased to support NOD’s pilot of this significant program to help improve employment possibilities for college graduates with disabilities,” said Lori Billingsley, vice president, Community Connections, Coca-Cola North America. “We believe this program addresses a critical gap in job readiness and placement, and will expand opportunities for people with disabilities.”

For 35 years, NOD has worked with leading employers and partnered with educational and philanthropic institutions to pilot innovative approaches to disability inclusion, scaling effective models for broader impact. NOD has helped dozens of major employers hire individuals with disabilities based on its proven suite of Professional Services – a demand-driven approach to filling positions.

“Similarly, the Campus to Careers pilot, starting with employers’ talent needs, will develop an employment pipeline for college students with disabilities in Boston and surrounding areas,” said COSD Founding Executive Director Alan Muir. “Together, we will work with participating universities to overcome traditional barriers and with participating employers to fine-tune recruitment and hiring practices to more effectively reach students and graduates with disabilities. Results will be tracked and reported out for broader adoption across the country.”

The Campus to Careers project team will:

  • Ensure participating college students and recent graduates with disabilities receive support to become “job ready” and make effective connections to employers for both internship and full-time employment opportunities.
  • Select and work with approximately seven employers to facilitate connections with universities and students and graduates with disabilities. The project team will provide disability inclusion training for recruiters and hiring managers, deliver meaningful access to students and graduates with disabilities, and develop effective connections to campus disability and career services offices.
  • Select and assist approximately ten universities, training career and disability services staff, fostering better connections between those offices and employers, and ensuring students and graduates with disabilities have access to employment opportunities and participating employers have the talent pipelines they need.

“Given the need for effective models linking employers and qualified candidates with disabilities, along with Boston’s rich ecosystem of higher-ed institutions and employers motivated to hire top talent, the Campus to Careers pilot program represents a unique opportunity for our community,” said Work Without Limits Director Kathleen A. Petkauskos. “Not only will the National Organization on Disability’s expertise in developing successful employment programs help students with disabilities transition from college to careers, but more notably, Campus to Careers will determine which specific services deliver the results-driven outcomes demanded by leading employers and, ultimately, create a model suite of services that will be shared and repeated for broader impact. We are proud to be a part of this novel effort.”

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