DOD Seeks Mentors to Help Hire People with Disabilities
By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 19, 2012 The Defense Department on Oct. 26 will kick off its annual volunteer mentoring program to help hire individuals with disabilities as part of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, Stephen M. King, DOD’s director of disability programs, said recently.
King said the volunteer program is in step with Executive Order 13548, “Increasing Federal Employment of Individuals with Disabilities,” to highlight the importance of mentoring people with disabilities, and to improve the hiring and retention of people with disabilities within DOD.
"The mentor-mentee relationship develops over the course of seven months, and sometimes becomes so strong it extends outside of the program,” King said. “The relationships have even encompassed advice in decision making related not only to mentees’ professional lives, but their personal lives as well.”
DOD established the Electronic Mentoring Program –- known as “e-Mentoring” -- in 2002 to supplement the Workforce Recruitment Program for College Students and Recent Graduates with Disabilities, said Eileen Lainez, a spokeswoman with the Defense Press Office, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs.
The WRP connects the federal sector with highly motivated post-secondary students and recent grads with disabilities, Lainez said.
The WRP began in 1975 and the program was expanded to all federal agencies 20 years later. Nearly 6,000 positions since then have been filled by WRP participants.
E-Mentoring helps volunteers encourage participants to hone their career plans and consider DOD careers, King said.
E-Mentoring also offers weekly discussion topics, from interview techniques and goal setting to applying for federal jobs and business etiquette.
"Participants have said that DOD's Workforce Recruitment Program's e-Mentoring program gave them the confidence and knowledge needed when applying for full-time employment within the Department of Defense, and the federal government as a whole," King said.
Hiring people with disabilities also contributes to military readiness, Lainez said. For organizations to operate at their optimum, they must capitalize on what all employees bring to the workplace in knowledge, skills and abilities, she noted.
And people with disabilities develop problem-solving abilities that transfer to the workplace, Lainez said.
Last year, 86 recruiters from 40 federal agencies, including 33 DOD recruiters, interviewed students at 290 colleges and universities across the country. DOD hired 79 percent of the WRP participants and 30 percent were people with targeted or severe disabilities as recognized by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Lainez said.
Mentors comprise service members and civilians from DOD installations worldwide who volunteer their time to help develop qualified individuals with disabilities to enter the DOD workforce. Additionally, mentors bring leadership to the program by “giving back,” she said.
“You would be surprised to know that sometimes mentors benefit from the program just as much as the mentees do,” King said.
“In working with their mentees, they are reminded of their own career goals, and become inspired to reassess their own life plans," he noted.
And those who are mentored become more prepared and integrate more easily into an organization after an experienced volunteer mentors them, Lainez added.
The varieties of opportunities in DOD career fields include business management, accounting, education, criminal justice, administration, and information technology.
Military and DOD civilian employees who are interested in becoming volunteer mentors can contact DOD’s e-Mentoring program coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.