Logistics Agency Leads in Recruiting Students With Disabilities
By Tonya Johnson
Special to American Forces Press Service
FORT BELVOIR, Va., Feb. 5, 2009 The Defense Logistics Agency hired 91 college students with disabilities under the federal government’s Workforce Recruitment Program in 2008, more than any other federal agency.
The jointly sponsored Defense and Labor department program matches students with disabilities with internships at government agencies or private-sector companies. Since it started in 1995, about 4,500 students have participated, and more than 350 of them have been interns at DLA, officials said.
The Army hired the most WRP interns from 2004 to 2007, Famia Magana, director of DLA’s Equal Employment Office, said. With 86 hires in 2008, the Army had the second-highest total in the federal government. Magana said DLA officials set a goal to make the most WRP hires in 2008.
“The fact that we have achieved No. 1 status within the federal government for the 2008 WRP cycle means that what we’re doing is working,” Magana said. “Last year, we came in second place and hired 51 students.” The agency’s strategy, implemented over the past five years, is driving better results, she said.
“We have dramatically increased the agency’s participation in this program and increased the participation of individuals with disabilities and targeted disabilities within DLA,” she added.
The Workforce Recruitment Program is the only recruitment and referral program that connects federal-sector employers nationwide with highly motivated post-secondary students and recent graduates with disabilities, Eric Spanbauer, manager of DLA’s disability program and WRP, said. “[These students] are eager to prove their abilities in the workplace through summer or permanent jobs anywhere in the enterprise,” he said.
The program helps DLA officials meet the agency’s goal of a 3 percent representation of people with targeted disabilities within its work force, he added.
Representatives from DLA headquarters and the field activities visit colleges and universities to meet students and explain the agency’s mission during the recruitment phase of the program’s cycle.
Students wishing to participate in WRP must be enrolled at an accredited institution on a full-time basis and be seeking an undergraduate, graduate or doctoral degree. The 14-week summer program offers interns a chance to participate annually until the summer after graduation.
DLA interns have worked in a variety of offices, including public affairs, human resources, general counsel and equal employment opportunity, and most come in at the GS-4 or GS-5 level.
One of the goals of the program is for interns eventually to be hired as full-time employees, Magana said. Many WRP interns who meet eligibility requirements can be hired noncompetitively through the Schedule A hiring authority. Interns also can apply for the DLA Corporate Intern Program, a two-year training program that employees enter as GS-7s and graduate from as GS-11s, with experience in multiple areas of the agency’s business operations.
Magana said she encourages hiring officials and managers to take advantage of WRP and has received positive feedback from both interns and supervisors who have participated in the program.
“I would challenge DLA hiring officials to consider WRP candidates to fill their hiring needs,” she said. “They are highly qualified, and their turnover rate is low once they get their foot in the door and show their capabilities.”
Defense Department officials allocate the number of individuals an agency can hire under this program each year based on a dollar value. If an agency does not hire the interns allocated, then other agencies can receive the additional unused funds. Agencies also have the option of hiring more individuals than the Defense Department will pay for under the Workforce Recruitment Program by funding the extra positions themselves.
In 2008, DLA received $640,000 to hire students under the Workforce Recruitment Program. The Defense Supply Center Philadelphia and the Defense Distribution Center each hired 19 interns. The two organizations also requested additional slots -- DSCP and DDC funded two and three interns, respectively, from their own budgets.
DLA’s 2009 allocation calls for 68 funded positions, but Magana said she hopes the agency can surpass last year’s results and hire more than 91.
“The number of WRP hires is only limited by how the agency embraces the program,” she said. “It just makes sense to hire qualified people from this program to work in different occupations to support the warfighter.”
The program kicks off in mid-March, when hiring officials can access a database of more than 1,800 students screened to participate in the program.
(Tonya Johnson works at the Defense Logistics Agency public affairs office.)