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Published: Friday, July 19, 2019 @ 12:01 AM
Fresh talent and innovative minds have arrived at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base this summer. More than 30 students with disabilities are beginning internships on base, made possible by the Workforce Recruitment Program.
The WRP is a recruitment and referral program that assists college students and recent graduates with disabilities in finding jobs in the federal and private sectors. It is a national program co-sponsored by the Department of Defense and the Department of Labor, and it is funded by the Department of Defense.
The WRP began nearly 20 years ago, and Wright-Patterson AFB has participated in the program for many of those years. Since then, hundreds of students with disabilities have helped support the Air Force mission by contributing to diverse operations across the installation.
Over the years, interns have worked with supercomputers in the Air Force Research Laboratory, provided database migration at the Air Force Security Assistance and Cooperation Directorate, chronicled missions at the History and Museum Program and offered legal support at the Judge Advocate and Legal office, to name a few.
These interns come from universities such as Wright State University, California Polytechnic State University, the University of Toledo, the Ohio State University and Ohio Northern University.
“The program has transformed in the past year with many additional flexibilities including year-round start dates for the interns and prolonged centralized funding from the DoD,” said Molly Fore, Air Force Materiel Command human resource specialist and WRP recruiter.
Fore has contributed to the program for four years by recruiting and interviewing WRP candidates. During interviews, recruiters create a comfortable and relaxed environment to eliminate any stress the students might feel. The recruiters also invite the candidates to participate in a mock interview in preparation for their official interview.
“Most frequently, these interns are just like any other student or recent graduate fresh out of college,” said Fore. “They are new to their careers and will simply need some on-the-job training or perhaps clarification on expectations prior to being assigned a project.”
“The skills that they have and the talents that they bring to the table are just as important as anyone else’s,” said Kevin Simmons, Affirmative Employment Program manager. “I do realize that there are stereotypes about people with disabilities. So, what our WRP employees get to do is dispel some of those stereotypes and go into an organization and excel.”
WRP interns are placed on overhire positions in their organizations, which allows organizations the freedom to accept interns without forfeiting a vacancy. Additionally, organizations seeking interns are not required to place job postings as the interns are direct hires.
“The WRP interns offer a pipeline of talent into our civilian workforce,” said Fore. “Perhaps the best benefit that these individuals can offer is their out-of-the-box thinking and unique problem-solving skills. Because they have a disability, the interns are often faced with everyday obstacles that you or I would never experience. They face these obstacles head on and work to overcome them. This perspective is exactly what we need to stay agile in today’s Air Force.”