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May 6th, 2015 by

by Tiffany Jolliff

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Few can argue with the value of professional internships. For college students and recent graduates, they deliver a way to gain skills and learn about employment options through hands-on workplace experience. And the benefits don’t stop there. Internships also offer employers an easy and effective way to evaluate potential employees and cultivate a pipeline of talent for the future—which is a fundamental goal in today’s competitive marketplace.

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But did you know that internships can also assist businesses in achieving their workforce diversity goals? It’s something I understand firsthand as an alumna of an internship program for people with disabilities called the Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP). I landed my current job in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) through the WRP. And while I credit the experience with changing my life for the better, I also know that it was a strategic move on the part of my employer, which leveraged the WRP as a wise and essential recruitment strategy.

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Recently, I had the privilege of moderating a panel that examined this very topic. During an April 29 webinar hosted by the Employer TA Center, five esteemed presenters explored the benefits of hiring interns with disabilities and how employers can take advantage of the WRP and other referral services to connect with them. The discussion was both educational and insightful.

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Shannon Offord, Manager of Strategic Partnerships at DirectEmployers, provided a walk-through of the WRP website and shared his organization’s role in connecting private sector companies to the resource. He explained that the WRP links businesses to a database of more than 1,800 pre-screened, highly motivated college students and recent graduates with disabilities through the web portal There, you can post permanent and temporary positions, and WRP students can search and apply for these positions using employers’ standard application processes. Only pre-screened WRP students have access to postings on, making it a great source for qualified candidates.

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Next, we heard from two representatives from Northrop Grumman—Dan Ellerman, Director of Diversity and Inclusion, and Anna Cunningham, a former WRP intern who recently became a full-time employee at the company. In describing Northrop Grumman’s numerous disability inclusion efforts, Dan emphasized the importance of strategic partnerships as a recruitment tool, citing Anna as a prime example of the partnership effect. She was working as a WRP intern for the U.S. State Department when the U.S. Business Leadership Network’s CareerLink Mentoring Program placed her in a mentoring partnership with Dan. The rest is history. “I quickly realized that Anna was a talent we wanted working at Northrop Grumman,” he said, and Anna was soon hired into a full-time position. “I think I’ll be working for her one day,” said Dan.

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Our other two webinar panelists echoed those sentiments. Kam Wong, Vice President of Planning & Administration in the Office of Diversity & Inclusion at Prudential Financial, discussed Prudential’s long-standing commitment to diversity and inclusion, and cited internships for people with disabilities as a key piece of its recruitment strategy. A case in point? Fellow panelist Eric SoHayda, a Prudential Senior Data Associate who credits internships as key stepping stones in his career journey. Like Anna, Eric participated in both the CareerLink program and WRP, which ultimately led him to land a position through Prudential’s Abled & Disabled Associates Partnering Together (ADAPT) internship program.

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The webinar covered a lot of ground, and you can view the archived version on the EARN website. But for those who missed it, here’s a quick recap of our panelists’ advice:

  • Tap into community partners and the WRP program to find and hire qualified interns with disabilities. Shannon reminded employers to visit to learn more.
  • Be thoughtful in building out your internship strategy. Kam encouraged employers to create positions that will be meaningful to both the intern and the organization, and cultivate an environment where the intern will feel valued.
  • Dan and Kam agreed that successful employment experiences occur when managers are knowledgeable about the needs and abilities of their interns and workers with disabilities. While not all people with disabilities need workplace supports, some do, so managers should understand the reasonable accommodation process. That said, interns with disabilities should be treated like every other intern—acknowledge their differences, but focus on their abilities and job performance.
  • Foster mentor/mentee relationships by getting personal and staying connected. Dan and Anna built a great friendship (through their love of food!) and set an early goal of checking in with each other weekly to discuss Anna’s professional development.
  • Internships are an exceptional way for young people with disabilities to gain valuable workplace experience and open career doors. Once you land a position, be yourself and fully engage. In Eric’s words, “Don’t sit on the sidelines; that’s not where the game is played.”
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ODEP and the Employer TA Center are incredibly grateful to our panelists for participating in our webinar on cultivating talent. They are living proof that internships pay great dividends that span inclusion, diversity and human capital goals.

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November 14th, 2014 by

About six months ago, Patrick Ross knew things had reached a breaking point at work. An angry email he had sent to a superior – combined with occasional temper flare-ups and brusque interactions with colleagues – was endangering his job of two years as deputy director of communication at the United States Patent and Trademark Office.


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November 7th, 2014 by

By Enid Kassner

We all like to have choices. Being able to decide where we live and work, what we eat and how we spend our leisure time all enhance life satisfaction.

Having a disability doesn’t diminish the desire for choice. But unfortunately, people with disabilities often lose control over how services are provided when they depend on Medicaid for home- and community-based services (HCBS), such as meal preparation or help with bathing and dressing.

It doesn’t have to be this way.


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September 26th, 2014 by
The diagram is an infographic with the title: States as Model Employers of People with Disabilities.  States as employers can have a major impact on the employment rate of people with disabilities. Heading: States are LARGE employers:  Underneath this text heading are 4 rectangles. Along the left side of the 4 rectangles is the text: People Employed.  The first rectangle has a female figure in yellow inside a large red rectangle. It shows that 19 million people are employed by State & Local Government.  The next rectangle is a little smaller and has a dark blue figure of a male inside a light blue rectangle. It shows that 17 million people are employed in Healthcare and Social Assistance.  The third rectangle is a little smaller than the second rectangle; it has a dark blue female figure inside a light blue rectangle. It shows that 12 million people work in Manufacturing. The last rectangle is the smallest. It has a dark blue male figure inside a light blue rectangle. It shows that 5.5 million people work in Construction.  The next diagram is illustrated in a triangle divided into three sections.  The heading over this triangle is: Building Blocks of States as Model Employers. The top third of the triangle in yellow is labeled POLICY and LEADERSHIP. Outside of this triangle, it states: Evaluation and Adjustment Programs, Measuring Goals for Accountability, and Forming Partnerships with VR and Hiring Agencies. The lower left third of the triangle in orange is labeled HR PRACTICES. Outside this section, it states: Early Intervention and Return to Work; Fast Track Hiring; and Internships and Job Shadowing. The lower right third of the triangle in red is labeled EDUCATION and AWARENESS. Outside this section, it states Disability Diversity Training, and Website Accessibility.  Source:  Krepcio, K., Barnett, S. (2013). States as model employers of people with disabilities: A comprehensive review of politics, practices and strategies. Employer Assistance and Resource Network.   The bottom of this infographic shows the web link:

States as Model Employers Infographic

By Kathy Krepcio
Executive Director, Disability Employment, Research Design, Workforce Policy at the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development

Earlier this month, the nation celebrated Labor Day, a national holiday designed to pay tribute to the contributions and achievement of American workers. As many of us know, work is an important part of our lives. It’s not only a source of income and economic support, it also provides daily structure and focus; makes life meaningful; offers an outlet for acquiring, developing, and mastering skills and knowledge; and for building social relationships.
Americans work in all kinds of job settings, sometimes for themselves, and for all types of employers—large, small, private companies, and public agencies. While a very large portion work in the private sector, more than 19 million Americans work in some type of full- and part-time public-sector job, and more than (more…)

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