The Fleishman Center for Career and Professional Development and Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) are teaming up to help students with disabilities advance in the workforce with expanded internship options.
The program is still in the planning stages, but will focus on helping students with disabilities find internship sites that provide a supportive environment for building skills necessary for career success.
According to Dianne Gray, director of SSD, SSD regularly offers accommodations and adaptive technology to undergraduate and graduate students with disabilities. The Fleishman Center plans to conduct outreach to identify on- and off-campus internship sites and outline a series of skill-building and professional development workshops. Gray said the program will bring the two offices together to help students with special needs transition from college to the workplace.
“The student, Services for Students with Disabilities, the Fleishman [Center] and the internship site will work collaboratively throughout the process,” Gray wrote in an email. “Students will learn how to navigate the workplace as an individual with a disability, what accommodations may or may not be necessary and how to advocate for those accommodations.”
The pilot program is planned to include all students registered with SSD, but there will be a specific focus on students who are on the autism spectrum. According to a 2012 Center for Disease Control report, one in 68 children in the United States are on the spectrum. According to Gray, the population of students at BU on the autism spectrum has increased by 147 percent since the 2013-14 academic year, and for these students, getting an internship can be daunting.
“The internship experience in conjunction with the [Career Development Centralized Internship Program] classes will help students develop their own individual skill sets,” Gray wrote. “Our hope is that participation in the program will transfer to the workplace and prepare them for life-long career success.”
The University’s effort to increase career opportunities for students with disabilities is in accordance with a June 2017 Department of Labor report titled “Persons with a Disability: Labor Force Characteristics Summary,” which examines the low employment rate for people with disabilities. According to the report, the unemployment rate for persons with one or more disabilities was 10.5 percent in 2016, roughly twice that of those without disabilities.
Gray said the program aims to put a dent in that statistic.
“Currently, this program is in it’s infancy,” Gray wrote. “We have researched other institutions and have not found anything quite like this. Our hope is that it is successful and this particular program paves the way for other schools to undertake similar programs.”
Kevin Eriksen, a second-year graduate student studying student affairs administration and public administration, said he’d used both offices during his academic career and was confident the program would succeed.
“I’ve used the resources of both and have had very positive experiences with both,” Eriksen said. “Both offices are very passionate about doing whatever they can to help.”
The program’s start date has yet to be determined, but coordinators are currently working to identify internship sites and students who would benefit from the program.