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Prudential: Recruiting and Supporting Interns with Disabilities

Employer Case Study: Learn why pairing interns with disabilities with company employee resource group (ERG) members help ensure inclusion.

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Prudential Financial, Inc. is a Fortune 500 company whose subsidiaries provide insurance, investment management and other financial products and services throughout the U.S. and in over 40 other countries. Prudential has robust student internship opportunities in all business areas from insurance and financial services to marketing and human resources. 

Every summer, students are hired for paid internships at Prudential’s multiple locations. All students, including those with disabilities, who meet the basic internship qualifications are encouraged to apply for Prudential’s internships. In 2008, members of Prudential’s Abled & Disabled Abled Partnering Together (ADAPT) Business Resource Group (BRG) piloted an internship program targeted students and recent graduates with disabilities.

ADAPT is a network of Prudential Financial employees, some of whom have either a disability, chronic medical condition or an interest in disability issues. The group supports the personal and professional development of its members by encouraging the sharing of information and insights while striving to educate themselves and other employees on disability awareness issues. 

ADAPT members created the targeted internship program to support inclusion and to recruit more individuals with disabilities into the talent pipeline. This annual process starts in the winter when hiring managers submit intern requests to ADAPT. The internship positions must provide the same meaningful corporate work experience for ADAPT interns as any other Prudential internship. Once the internship positions have been identified, ADAPT members conduct outreach to a network of college and university campuses and disability employment organizations to recruit student applicants. ADAPT also recruits interns through the Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP).

One of the advantages of the ADAPT internship program for both the students and the employees is disability awareness training. ADAPT requires hiring managers and any employees with whom the intern will work to complete training to ensure a positive experience for the students. The training covers a wide range of topics including: the definition of disability and understanding that a person’s disability may be invisible; why disability inclusion matters to the company; an overview of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the company’s  policies on nondiscrimination and reasonable accommodations; what it means to create an inclusive work environment and culture; disability etiquette; and considerations for disaster preparedness. The training is typically held in person or through teleconferencing to allow for participant discussion. Training participants are encouraged to talk about any concerns and apprehensions about disability. Hiring managers are trained on interviewing practices such as asking all applicants job related questions and inquiring what they may need to be productive. These questions provide an opening for students who have disabilities to discuss any accommodations they may need to perform the job without asking whether they have disabilities.

ADAPT interns also participate in a specialized orientation prior to starting their internship. During this teleconference orientation, the interns meet the ADAPT team and other interns to discuss their assignments, receive an overview of the company and learn about the Business Resource Groups, including ADAPT. If a student intern with a disability requests an accommodation, the ADAPT team connects the student and hiring manager with Prudential’s Accommodations Area staff to initiate the process prior to the intern’s start date.

Throughout the ten-week summer internship, the ADAPT interns participate in the same professional development and social activities as all other Prudential interns. The ADAPT team members meet with the interns regularly, by phone, email or instant messenger, to see how their experience is progressing and to offer support. Additionally, the ADAPT team also offers to help each intern find a mentor within the company other than his or her workplace supervisor who can provide support and guidance.

As their internship concludes, the ADAPT interns convene again by teleconference to discuss what they learned and what their next steps will be. The ADAPT team also collects interns’ feedback about the experience to guide ongoing improvements to the program. Prudential benefits from the ADAPT internship program by attracting qualified students with disabilities as job candidates and transforming employee perceptions of individuals with disabilities.