Panel Discussion: The value of hiring and retaining disabled persons and veterans

The Greater Washington Board of Trade partnered with Easterseals DC MD VA’s mission-driven Candid Conversations series on March 27 and brought together the business community for a workforce panel discussion on Employment Strategies for Hiring & Retaining Persons with Disabilities and Veterans. 

The event took place at Booz Allen’s “The Helix Center for Innovation,” an immersive technology experience for its community partners in downtown Washington, D.C. with additional sponsorship from Comcast.

The Panelists included:
Martel Neville, Vice President Human Resources at Comcast
Chris Wheedleton, Senior Vice President, Employment Programs, Easterseals DC MD VA
Sylvia B. Charles, Business Relations Specialist; DC Dept of Disability Services, Rehabilitation Services Administration
Tom Downs, CDR; Director Diversity Talent Acquisition and Talent Pipeline; Booz Allen Hamilton
Francesca Daniels (moderator); Lead Associate, Experiential Analytics, Booz Allen Hamilton

“Statistically, persons with disabilities are the least employed so they have the most difficult time gaining employment” said Sylvia Bailey-Charles, Business Relations Specialist at the DC Department of Disability Services, part of the Rehabilitation Administration Services. “We’re here to remove barriers and ensure job seekers have equal access to employment.”

Watch the full panel discussion below:

“With over a quarter million software engineer jobs open in the U.S., there’s a war for talent, with an often overlooked demographic of persons with disabilities, so there’s a need to educate recruitment teams and hiring managers to identify all potential candidates,” said Tom Downs, Director of Diversity Talent Acquisition and Talent Pipeline for Booz Allen Hamilton.  One additional step that Booz Allen does before posting a job is to put the job description through a tool to help call out and eliminate words that might prevent certain demographics from applying for jobs.

At Comcast, the organization tracks and measures diversity, equity, and inclusiveness at each career level to ensure they are stacking up against the values they strive for.  “Employee Resource Groups (ERG) are a group of individuals that help everyone feel included and represented and raise the level of awareness internally but often serve as an accountability measure as well hold the company accountable,” said Martell Neville, Vice President of Human Resources at Comcast.

The conversation really framed issues around employment and workforce challenges for disabled persons, including disabled veterans. Larger corporations generally have the resources necessary to identify what issues or barriers exist and make corrective actions in the recruitment and hiring process, along with creating a sense of belonging in company culture.

Further, the discussion identified some best practices and practical solutions for engaging with this valuable and productive demographic. 

Click here to see more photos from our Candid Conversation event with Easterseals DC MD VA