Stepping into

Peter Williams
Summary 
People with a disability make valuable employees. But they can face added barriers when looking for work. Work experience can help students with a disability overcome some of these barriers. The Australian Network on Disability runs the Stepping into program. The program helps university students with a disability to find work experience. The students work in an organisation for four weeks. They get paid for their efforts too. Students can work in areas such as finance, law, accounting and information technology. Stepping into helps students with a disability begin their career and working life.
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Peter Williams on 01/06/2012
A person taking a right step wearing purple converse sneakers and black jeans. The image is calf down and the focus is on the sneaker.
Stepping into logo

Stepping into a paid internship.

An internship is a great way for students to gain practical experience in an occupation or profession. The not-for-profit organisation, the Australian Network on Disability (AND) runs the Stepping into program. This program is designed to help university students with a disability find an internship. It aims to help bridge the gap between study and employment for students with a disability.

AND runs the program in conjunction with participating member-organisations. In the summer of 2012, Stepping into was coordinated by the Office for Disability within the Department of Human Services (DHS).

Internships

The paid internships run for a minimum of four weeks. Students who are unable to work full time because of their disability may complete the course over a longer period. The program is for students in their final year of university study. All prospective interns are required to submit an application and a resume and go through an interview process.

Internships are available in the areas of policy, law, information technology (IT), engineering, marketing, human resources, accounting and finance.

Stepping into also benefits employers by helping to identify and break down some of the barriers faced by people with disability in their organisation including stereotypes and myths around disability.

Practical experience

Michael is completing his IT degree. He has a vision impairment. Michael was successful in gaining an IT internship with DHS. Stepping into was a very good experience, he says. Working as an intern has given me a good opportunity to test my skills and validate them.

By working alongside experienced professionals, students are given the opportunity to learn new skills. The program can also help students establish career goals.

Michael thinks he's interested in pursuing a career path in networking and database administration. But he says, My experience with DHS on the help desk was interesting and I would be happy to continue in a similar role.

He says the program provides valuable experience outside the study environment.

Formatting a computer in the classroom is different from how you format a computer in the workplace. Ensuring I had the right techniques was important, he explains.

Insight

Andrew is completing his bachelor degree in computer science. He has an autism spectrum disorder. Andrew also worked as an intern at DHS in his chosen field of IT. He says Stepping into gave him, an excellent opportunity to get an insight into how the industry operates.

Students experience the challenges of a hectic work environment. Andrew says, The main challenge was having to think quickly...as well as attempting to resolve issues that I have never experienced before. But he adds, I quickly overcame these with practice.

Andrew says the work was highly rewarding. The best part of the experience was the satisfaction I got from helping staff members resolve their technical issues.

Long-term benefits

Intern students can develop a network of contacts in their professional field. After completing an internship participants may be invited to apply for a suitable position with their employer.

Stepping into is a great opportunity for students with a disability to gain practical work experience. An internship also gives students the chance to showcase their expertise to prospective employers. The skills and the knowledge they acquire as an intern will be a valuable asset to their future career.

Australian Network on Disability

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