Ep 120 – Cisco’s Inclusive Hiring Apprenticeship Program

Workology Podcast Episode 120, Pat Romzek, Cisco inclusive hiring program

In 2016, the Department of Labor reported the rate of unemployment for those with a disability was 10.5%. This talent pool remains largely untapped and presents a great opportunity for businesses that are looking for employees to fill open roles within their organization. The question is: how do companies find, engage, and retain this untapped talent market?

This podcast kicks off a special Future of Work series in partnership with PEAT, the Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology.

Episode 120: Cisco’s Inclusive Hiring and Apprenticeship Program with Pat Romzek (@promzek)

Pat Romzek is a seasoned executive who oversees Cisco’s Project Life Changer Program. Project Life Changer is an inclusive hiring program focused on hiring and retaining employees who have disabilities. What started out as a volunteer pilot program is now helping to transform the hiring and employment programs at Cisco. Project Life Changer has hired more than 100 employees all over the globe.

In this episode of the Workology Podcast, Pat walks us through the history of Cisco’s Project Life Changer, how this volunteer project has expanded and grown and their processes. What struck me as extremely unique is that Project Life Changer is open to all candidates with disabilities.

Project Life Changer As a Global Disability Hiring Program

The scope of Project Life Changer is impressive. The Program isn’t limited to a specific location or disability. They have hired and trained over 100 employees in the United States as well as Belgium, China, India, and Brazil. Their work continues to expand as does their training and support for the locations, team members and hiring managers who work with an increasingly diverse group of employees.

You need to accommodate individuals but you also need to change your processes. We started this with the idea we're going to use technology as a real enabler of innovation. - @promzek Click To Tweet

As their project grows, so does their view on recruiting talent with disabilities. Pat explains in this interview how Project Life Changer has created a talent incubator program focused on hiring for attitude and fit providing employees the opportunity to receive training and education. And their work is really paying off. Pat talks about how they are measuring success and impact and how through process and productivity metrics, they have been able to measure the work of Project Life Changer hires. In one example, that Pat shares, that engineers who are visually impaired increased team performance metrics in the areas of closure rates and team productivity.

It’s conversations like these that provide insights into the larger organizational changes that need to happen for an organization to embrace inclusive hiring programs as we’ve seen from Pat and Cisco. It’s not simply creating a new talent funnel and candidate-specific marketing programs. Companies have to flex their entire interview, selection, onboarding, and training program to truly make an inclusive workplace. This combined with Cisco and Pat’s global hiring efforts are truly inspiring.

Connect with Pat Romzek on LinkedIn.


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*A special thank you to my production team at Total Picture Radio.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.

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