By Ellen E. McLaughlin and Craig B. Simonsen

iStock_000038222258IllustraThe U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy has recently released the “Inclusive Internship Programs: A How-to Guide for Employers” (How-To-Guide).

The DOL’s guide provides information on the benefits that inclusive internship programs may bring to employers. For example, the How-To-Guide indicates that inclusive internships may allow businesses to tap into a diverse pool of talent that may bring fresh thinking and innovation, in addition to developing a recruitment pipeline, and to provide leadership opportunities for existing staff with management potential.

The How-To-Guide also lays out suggested and detailed steps that employers “should consider” when designing, implementing, and evaluating inclusive internship programs. Specifically, the How-To-Guide discusses:

  • The importance of establishing internship programs for young adults, including youth with disabilities, due to the business advantages employers can derive from them;
  • The initial groundwork necessary for proposing and planning an internship program;
  • The major components in designing and implementing an internship program; and
  • The process of evaluating an internship program and its participants for continuous improvement.

In addition to the narrative How-To-Guide, some of the appendices appear to be a good resource for employers. For instance, Appendix B provides “25 Steps Essential to Establishing a Program”; and appendix D is “Disability Etiquette for the Workplace and Beyond.” These guides are useful references for the workplace in general.

Employers that already have inclusive internship programs in-place should consider comparing their programs with the DOL’s new How-To-Guide and reviewing whether any changes to existing programs are in order. Employers considering starting up inclusive internship programs may wish to examine closely all of their hiring policies and practices and other relevant programs to ensure they are fully integrated and don’t raise unwanted issues or problems.