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Where Internships and Inclusion Intersect

Across the nation, public and private employers of all sizes are reaping the benefits of internships — temporary positions that deliver practical, on-the-job training to "beginners" in a particular profession. In addition to helping develop the work experience, skills and career goals of America's future workforce, internships offer employers direct access to a pool of motivated individuals who bring fresh thinking and innovation to their workplaces. What's more, they offer employers a pipeline of potential candidates to consider for permanent positions.

Of course, capitalizing on the value of workplace interns means designing and implementing an effective internship program, whether small or large in scope. And central to that is the pillar of inclusion, and ensuring that your internship program is accessible for all youth, including youth with disabilities.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy recently released a resource for employers that tackles this very topic. Inclusive Internship Programs: A How-to Guide for Employers addresses the various things employers should consider when establishing internship programs to ensure they are open to all qualified candidates. Featuring practical information and resources, the guide explores ways to promote inclusion in your business, organization or agency. For example, it notes how a simple and no-cost strategy such as having flexible work schedules allows more students and recent graduates of all backgrounds to participate. It also details how managing workplace accommodations for interns with disabilities increases their productivity, to the benefit of both parties.

Best of all, employers can adapt the guide's recommendations to meet the goals of their specific organization, regardless of size or industry. In true "how-to" fashion, it can help you play an important role in the lives of young people with disabilities just starting out on their career journey by ensuring that inclusion is a cornerstone of your internship endeavors.

Employers interested in recruiting interns with disabilities can make use of the Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP), a free recruitment and referral program that connects employers both large and small with highly qualified college students and recent graduates with disabilities seeking summer internships or permanent jobs.

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