Michaela Brant / Gavel Media

Workforce Recruitment Program Expands Job Opportunities for Students with Disabilities

The Workforce Recruitment Program, operating under the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Defense, is a program that helps current college students or recent graduates with disabilities get jobs or internships with federal and private-sector organizations. Unemployment is a significant problem in the US, and it's even more prevalent among disabled individuals. In 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 19.1% of people with disabilities were employed, while 63.7% of people without disabilities were employed.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 was groundbreaking legislation and required public places to become accessible for those with disabilities. However, the act fell short when it came to employment. Because companies were required to make changes to accommodate employees with disabilities, it became a deterrent, for mid-sized companies especially, to hire them. The unemployment rate among people with disabilities has steadily stayed well above the unemployment rate of people without disabilities. Programs like the WRP are useful to bridge that gap created by the ADA in the workplace. With more students with disabilities receiving high school and college diplomas than ever before, programs are needed to help them follow their educational passions in the workforce. 

The WRP is also helpful because employers reach out directly to prospective hires. There are over 2,000 candidates on this database, and each year new people are added. Employers can look through this database, filter candidates from all majors and educational backgrounds, and reach out to those they would like to hire. This is similar to websites like LinkedIn that make it easy for applicants to connect with employers, but it is specifically targeted toward students and recent graduates with disabilities. 

Applicants can apply through WRP-partnered schools—including Boston College. Colleges that register to be part of the program must appoint a WRP School Coordinator to help students apply and communicate with their federal recruiter. College employees who wish to better understand the Federal Government hiring process can also attend training workshops with WRP staff. 

To join the program, the applicant must provide a letter from a medical professional, rehabilitation professional, or a federal/state-level agency that provides proof of disability. For privacy purposes, the nature of the disability doesn't need to be explained, they just need to confirm the applicant qualifies for the WRP. Applicants have to register yearly, and once approved, their resumes will be available to employers for the duration of that year. To assist with this process, the WRP helps applicants perfect their resumes, hone their interview skills, and provides career advice. 

On a more regional level, Massachusetts has a similar organization called the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission. It’s a state-wide program that helps workers with disabilities find employment. Like the WRP, their services include resume writing workshops, interview technique programs, and career counseling. They have connections to local career centers and also help people apply to various programs including the WRP. 

On an ever more local level, BC provides similar services to help adults with disabilities in the area become acclimated to work life. The Supported Employment Program at the Lynch School of Education provides resources for adults with developmental disabilities seeking jobs. They focus on the applicant's ability when finding jobs, not disability. They offer programs that center around developing skills for employment, building professional relationships, and helping the members of this program utilize university resources to their benefit. BC students that are in the PULSE service learning program can volunteer to become a Coach for this program. 

For BC students, Disability Services is committed to supporting students with disabilities during their time on campus and in the workforce. On their website, they’ve compiled a list of all the accessible entrances in academic buildings and dining services. There is also an interactive map with the locations of accessible entrances, elevators, and accessible parking throughout the entire campus. Although the school is striving to be as accessible as possible, there are always improvements that can be made. If any students have suggestions about potential accommodations, they can use this form on the Disability Services website.  

The BC Career Center is affiliated with the WRP and various other organizations that help students with disabilities find a job that best matches their strengths and interests. When asked why he thinks the WRP program is important for BC students, Peter Hunt, the Assistant Director of Career Education, stated that he thinks it's a mixture of negative stigma surrounding jobs in the public sector, and a general lack of knowledge that these jobs exist in the first place. “An example of the evidence of this—there are currently 40 alumni working for the Environmental Protection Agency alone,” Hunt said, “so for students and young alumni with disabilities to have this direct pipeline to federal job opportunities, and to have access to conversations with federal employees who identify as having a disability, is invaluable.” Despite this being BC’s second year working with the WRP, not a single student has applied. He believes this program could provide lots of benefits for BC students, saying “I would love to see some of our students who identify as having a disability look into the possibilities.” For more information regarding these resources, please contact Peter Hunt at the BC Career Center, peter.hunt@bc.edu

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