Many businesses find internships to be an effective personnel strategy because they offer a way to both fill anticipated short-term staffing needs and evaluate potential staff for permanent positions in the future—especially those who may be new to the workforce.
What many employers may not realize, however, is that internships can also be an effective strategy for achieving disability diversity. In fact, research shows that employers who have internships for people with disabilities are 4.5 times more likely to hire a person with a disability than those who do not. Thus, for federal contractors and subcontractors, hiring interns with disabilities can be an effective strategy for advancing goals under Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act.
To ensure their internship programs are inclusive, employers may want to use Inclusive Internship Programs: A How-To Guide for Employers. To recruit interns with disabilities, they can take advantage of the Workforce Recruitment Program for College Students with Disabilities. Another good resource is Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities.
In a similar vein, workplace mentoring benefits workers with and without disabilities as well as their employers. Thus, increasing numbers of employers are implementing formal or informal mentoring programs as a way to improve employees’ supervisory skills and job satisfaction and promote a positive corporate image. Like internships, mentoring programs can also serve as an effective employee recruitment and retention tool by helping to identify future talent for the organization.
Mentoring is a personnel enhancement strategy that pairs employees to facilitate the transfer of knowledge and skills. Mentors share known resources, expertise, organizational history, values, skills, perspectives, attitudes and proficiencies with mentees. This allows mentees to quickly ramp up, and build skills and knowledge while attaining career development goals. It also provides the opportunity for mentors to further enhance their own skill and knowledge areas.
Organizational benefits of mentoring include:
- Increased organizational diversity.
- Creation of a welcoming and inclusive workplace culture.
- Reduced turnover.
- Transfer of organizational knowledge.
- Increased preparedness for workforce turnover, especially in high level positions.
Employee benefits of mentoring include:
- A structured way for new employees to get acquainted with the organization.
- Easier transitions into the workplace and to new positions.
- Increased self-awareness and self-discipline.
- Expanded leadership abilities and understanding of diverse workers.
- Increased technical skills and enhanced opportunities for career advancement.
- New opportunities to share ideas, try new skills and take risks.
- Enhanced capacity to translate values and strategies into productive actions.
- Improved awareness of personal biases, assumptions and identification of areas for improvement.
- Extended collaboration among employees from different generations and cultural backgrounds.
To help employers understand the benefits and how-to of mentoring programs, EARN developed workplace mentoring primers for both federal agencies and private employers. Disability.gov also offers further resources on both Mentoring and Internship Programs.