As our young adults seek employment, there are many options to explore. Getting a paycheck is always a goal. But how do they gain the skills and experience needed to obtain a paid position? One option may be an unpaid internship.
Employers may not recognize the skills and talents of a person with a disability. Unpaid internships allow young adults to demonstrate their abilities. They are given a chance to get their feet wet. They gain experience and discover what types of work they enjoy. As an intern, they also help an employer keep labor costs down.
My son has completed a continuing education program and two paid internships. They helped him realize that he enjoys working in an office environment. He also learned new skills and what types of supports he needs to be successful. He can perform data entry tasks, file documents and organize materials.
He is now searching for the next job opportunity. We realize he needs more experience to gain a paid position. He is more than willing to work as an unpaid intern.
The first company we approached was skeptical. We were told, “We don’t provide unpaid internships.” But they also said they would consider it. As his advocate, I explained the value of an unpaid internship. Values for both the employer and the employee. We left his resume and are still waiting to hear back. I have a feeling the final answer will be, “We don’t provide unpaid internships…”
As the parent of a young adult who wants to work, this can be frustrating for me. But it will not stop me from helping him seek out opportunities. Recently I visited a nonprofit organization that offers a program for young adults. An idea occurred to me! Instead of him attending the program as a participant, he could be an unpaid intern. He could assist them with office tasks while gaining valuable experience. They are looking into the possibility. And we hope this time the answer will be, “Yes!”
Advocating for our children doesn’t end with high school. Often, it is up to us to help them find meaningful employment. It is rare that these opportunities are just handed to us. We must create networks and identify available resources and stay positive.
We will continue searching until he finds another internship position. Paid or unpaid. Or even better, a lasting job with a paycheck!
For information and resources on employment, visit Careers for People with Disabilities on this website.
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