Federal Government Internships for Students with Disabilities

In 2017, UMUC is pleased to once again participate in the Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP). The WRP is a recruitment and referral program that connects federal sector employers nationwide with highly motivated college students and recent graduates with disabilities for summer or permanent jobs. Most of these opportunities are usually paid between GS-5 through GS-11, although the salary depends on the agency. Agencies across the government participate in this program including the Department of Defense, Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, and Department of Treasury. Most of these opportunities are internships located in the greater Washington, D.C. area, but WRP interns have been hired in nearly 40 states and on military bases in Germany.

To help interested students and recent alumni prepare their WRP applications, UMUC Career Services recently offered a webinar about the program. Joining the webinar was U.S. Department of Veterans  Affairs’ (VA) Diversity & Inclusion Team Lead Nanese Loza. According to Loza, individuals with disabilities often have additional skills and creative abilities that can be highly valuable to federal employers. This is particularly true at the VA, which serves many veterans with disabilities. Federal agencies also must comply with Executive Order 13548, which requires federal agencies to increase its employment of individuals with disabilities. The WRP is a great talent pipeline for the VA and other federal agencies.

Eligibility Criteria
To participate in the WRP, applicants must:

  • Be eligible for hiring under the Schedule A Hiring Authority.
  • Be a U.S. citizen.
  • Be a current, full-time, degree-seeking, post-secondary student OR have graduated from such an institution within the past year (April 2016 or later).
  • Have a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or higher to ensure competitiveness for the program.

Students may also participate if they meet all of the other requirements for the program, but are taking a reduced course load because of a disability or immediately prior to graduation. WRP allows recent graduates to participate in the program, so those who graduated in April 2016 or later are eligible. Candidates who graduated prior to April 2016 are not eligible to participate this year.

What is Schedule A?
Schedule A is an accepted appointing authority used by the Federal Government that provides a “fast track” way for people with disabilities to be hired for a federal job. To be hired this way, candidates must prove they have a disability, which includes people with intellectual, severe physical, or psychiatric disabilities, and they do this by providing a Schedule A letter. This letter is a short acknowledgement that the candidate is a person with a disability and may be signed by:

  • A licensed medical professional or other entity (e.g. a physician or other medical professional).
  • A licensed vocational rehabilitation specialist (i.e. state or private).
  • Any agency that issues or provides disability benefits.

You can access a sample Schedule A Letter in the Resources section of the WRP website.

Application Process
The registration for this year’s WRP opened August 28, 2017 and closes October 16, 2017. There is a two-part registration process:

  1. Register to participate by visiting the WRP website and completing a brief registration form. UMUC’s Accessibility Services Office will then verify your eligibility to participate in the program.  
  2. Once your eligibility has been evaluated, you will receive an email. If approved to participate, you will be prompted to finish your application on the WRP website.  This includes submitting an academic transcript (official or unofficial) and resume.  A Schedule A letter is also recommended, but not required, at this stage.

WRP Resume Tips
Because the WRP is a federal hiring program, it is recommended that you submit a federal-style resume. Remember that this resume may be viewed by recruiters from a variety of federal agencies, but if you have a specific agency in mind, you may wish to say so in your objective statement. For example, a good objective statement for a WRP resume might be:

Seeking a cybersecurity internship with the Department of Defense through the WRP Program.

Loza also stressed the importance of using action verbs in your resume so you can showcase your experience and highlight your various accomplishments. If you developed something in a previous job, be sure to say so. Be sure to mention any time you went above and beyond and took initiative. Finally, your resume should be error-free, so be sure to carefully review it for typos and make sure it is as up-to-date as possible.

What Happens Next?
After completing your registration and your profile in the WRP Program website, the next step is to participate in an interview with a WRP recruiter. This will be a phone interview where the WRP Recruiter (who is a representative from a federal agency) will learn more about your background and enter this data into the WRP database. The WRP database is accessible to federal agencies who have applied to participate in the WRP Program during this year. A list of agencies who registered to use the 2016 WRP database is available in the Resources section of the WRP website.

According to VA WRP Coordinator Aurelia Waters, the overall goal of the WRP program is to convert candidates to permanent positions. Although the WRP fills short-term positions, many agencies hire WRP students in the hopes that they will be a viable candidate for a full-time position once the temporary position is complete.

Important Dates:

  • August 28 – October 16, 2017: Registration Period
  • October 30 – November 20, 2017: Interview Period
  • Mid-December 2017: Launch of the WRP database to employers
  • January – June 2018: Period when employers may reach out to WRP participants about internship opportunities

If you are a student with a disability interested in gaining professional experience within the federal government, the WRP may be a good option for you. Please note that completing the application and interview process for this program does not guarantee students a job, and this should be one of the many employment options you are considering.  

If you have any questions about the WRP program, please refer to their website as well as the resources available about the WRP in CareerQuest. You can also reach out to Kristin Schrader, Assistant Director of InternPLUS and Military Career Programs at UMUC by making an advisor appointment in CareerQuest. If you are interested in listening to the complete webinar, click here. To access the presentation slides, click here.

Kristin Schrader is the assistant director of InternPLUS and Military Career Programs at University of Maryland University College.  She has a background in human resources and has worked in career services at four universities.  Most recently, she was the Lead Trainer in Europe for the U.S. Department of Labor Employment Workshop teaching transitioning service members about the civilian job search.  Kristin is a proud military spouse and is passionate about helping others obtain their professional goals.