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How employers can help overcome barriers to employment

Dec 20, 2023

The job market is a tough nut to crack for even the most employable person, but it’s especially hard to find work if you’re faced with a barrier to employment.

What does this mean? Who faces these challenges? And, what can employers do to remove them? Let’s find out.

A brief overview of barriers to employment

Simply put, a barrier to employment is a characteristic that typically makes a person less likely to get a job. These features include a criminal history, disability, gender, race, age, education (or lack thereof) and gaps in employment.

It’s important for employers to note that none of these factors automatically mean someone isn’t suitable for a vacant position. Unfortunately there is still a great degree of systemic discrimination in the workplace that perpetuates prejudice against disabled people, ex-convicts, women, people of color, senior citizens, less educated people and folks who have been unemployed for lengthy periods.

Veterans, recovering addicts, being plus-size and people with chronic illnesses are also disproportionately affected. Socioeconomic class, religious affiliation, sexuality and nationality often unfairly influence someone’s employability, too.

How employers can knock down barriers

The reality is that job seekers can only do so much to improve their chances of landing a job when these qualities are inherent. People from marginalized groups have plenty to offer, so it’s worth instituting policies that help people overcome barriers to employment. What would these look like?

Firstly, equal opportunity policies would be the way forward. These are employment frameworks that prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). They do so by limiting (or entirely eliminating) automatically disqualifying criteria to give all candidates a fair chance. Furthermore, organizations can implement professional development programs to assist employees in learning and practicing vital workplace skills.

Employers can also consider providing further education to their workforce outside of workplace skills, such as short online college courses. Additionally, businesses might mull over the possibility of giving employees material assistance such as health insurance, subsidized child care and improving their worksite’s accessibility by building ramps and installing elevators.

Hiring managers can also look at a job applicant’s skills rather than their work experience or qualifications, as the latter may be affected by previous unfair discrimination and hiring practices. Organizations can use skills-based testing to assess a candidate’s suitability for the job instead of whether the applicant has already held the title they’re applying for.

This form of screening is becoming increasingly popular because, although a job seeker sometimes looks perfect on paper, they don’t actually have what it takes to succeed in the role. Conversely, job hopefuls who might seem inappropriate based on their resume might ace these tests and perform phenomenally in their role.

Regardless of the routes you take to improve equality at your workplace, you’ll likely find that the effort is worth your while. Everyone has something unique to offer!

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