While many service providers offer a valuable service to people with disabilities, they don’t always meet the goals of a competitive disability employment and inclusion program: equal jobs, equal pay and integration with other employees.

After all, if you’re expecting to build an engaging, supportive, diverse culture where you can hold all employees to the same standard, then your service provider needs to support that initiative as well.

Here are three red flags to watch out for with service providers:


1. Sub-minimum wage

Some agencies provide a “learn to work” or “sheltered workshop” environment – meaning that they bring people with disabilities into an employment or training workshop environment where they perform tasks that have been outsourced by employers as part of a learning experience.

Sometimes, employees in these facilities are paid less than minimum wage. Always ask about pay scale so you can make sure anyone who’s joining your in-house workforce or who is part of a company-sanctioned outsourced team is paid minimum wage – or better.

And be sure to know if your agency is designed to support individuals in an integrated setting.


2. Lack of collaboration

Competition can be fierce among service providers, but you should look for an agency that’s willing to work with other community providers, as well as your local or state VR, to help you get the talent you need.

These are the agencies that believe in your mission of finding the right fit for the right job, so that the employee can excel, and who are most likely to offer you continued support to build the best workplace you can.


3. 90 Days and Gone

Many agencies work on a 90-day timeline, meaning that after an individual is successfully placed for 90 days, the agency is no longer involved or available to answer your questions or concerns.

So ask about the follow-up and how responsive they’ll be if you need additional assistance, and keep in mind that there may be a fee for ongoing support beyond the first 90 days of employment.

And when signing on with these service providers, be sure you consider your internal review policies, to be sure you get the most out of their support while you and your new hire learn to work together towards a long-term partnership.


Now that you know what kind of arrangement might work best for your company, and understand the warning signs to watch for, it’s time to learn how to interview these service providers.

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