Internship creates opportunities for disabled students
April 5, 2011
- Recruitment program opens opportunities for disabled students.
- Workforce Recruitment Program aids workforce diversity.
ROCK ISLAND, Ill. -- Thanks to the Workforce Recruitment Program for College Students with Disabilities, the Army Sustainment Command now has several full-time employees.
According to program managers, college students with a disability have an opportunity to gain valuable experience and get a great job. The Army Sustainment Command participates in Workforce Recruitment Program, or WRP, a federally-funded program that focuses on recruiting and hiring of students with disabilities.
The Rock Island Arsenal has several students who have transitioned from the program into full-time employees. Kelly Kruse, Jason Ramirez, Jayson Saylor and Brendan Sullivan were all Army Sustainment Command, or ACS, interns who currently work full-time on the Rock Island Arsenal.
"WRP is a resource to connect public and private sector employers nationwide with highly motivated students and recent graduates with disabilities," said Gayla Pacheco, Workforce Recruitment Program liaison and ASC's Equal Employment Opportunity specialist.
"Students can market their abilities, sharpen their interviewing skills, gain valuable skills, experience, contacts on the job and, most important, prove that people with disabilities can be excellent employees," said Pacheco.
Jason Ramirez became involved with the program through an interviewing opportunity at Black Hawk College in Moline, Ill. "I was attending Black Hawk at the time and now I am a student at Western Illinois University here in the Quad Cities."
The initial program Ramirez was hired for only lasted five months, but he applied for an opportunity at the Army Contracting Command - Rock Island, which was looking to hire two college students. Ramirez became one of the successful applicants.
"I'm currently working in contracting for the pricing division, and I've gained a lot of financial information pertaining to cost and price analysis through this opportunity," said Ramirez.
Jayson Saylor learned of the program from the Black Hawk College disabilities coordinator.
"Once you enter and then interview for WRP, they place your information in a database and you start to receive calls from all over the United States," Saylor said. "I received calls from Virginia, Kentucky, Colorado, Illinois and Missouri, but I selected the offer from the Army Sustainment Command, primarily because I grew up in the area."
Saylor currently works for the ASC information management division. He has helped implement and develop the SharePoint environment for ASC, which launched globally. On a regular basis, he works with property management, analysis, and requirements of applications to be developed for various customers.
"When given a chance, no matter how difficult a task may be, with hard work and determination you can accomplish more then you could ever dream," said Saylor.
Kelly Kruse is a May 2010 graduate of the University of Wisconsin - Whitewater and currently works in the Resource Management Division of ASC.
"My first internship, in 2009, lasted three months," she said. "I came back the next summer and my supervisor helped me get a two-year appointment as a Department of the Army intern."
Kruse said in her current position she manages money to make sure Soldiers get supplies needed to do their jobs, while ensuring compliance with applicable fiscal laws.
"A big part of my job is making sure that whenever anyone needs something, whether it is a big complicated piece of equipment or just a toner cartridge for the office, funds are available and match the timing and purpose of the requirement," she said.
The Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy and the Department of Defense co-sponsor the program. The funding guarantees interns 14 weeks of work. After graduation, there's always the possibility that a student may be hired full time or in a temporary status by the organization where the internship took place.
To apply for the program, certain criteria must be met.
Students must have a substantial disability, hold U.S. citizenship and must be enrolled in school full time - unless their disability prohibits this. Graduates may also apply to the program as long as they are within one year of completing their education.
"I have worked with the WRP program for 11 years and I have witnessed some of the brightest and most talented students throughout the years," said Pacheco. "Many were my mentees and my friends and seeing them flourish is extremely satisfying."
Saylor said involvement with this program has changed the way he and others view individuals with disabilities and what they are capable of doing.
"Many times when someone is faced with adversity, like a disability, you hear reasons why they will never be able to accomplish certain tasks," he said. "But working for ASC has shown that I am capable of more than I ever thought, and you can't put a price on that experience."
For more information on the WRP program or other programs available for individuals with disabilities, visit the Office of Disability Employment Policy website at www.dol.gov/odep.