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NDEAM 2020: Workforce Recruitment Program – What It Is and How to Navigate It

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The Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) is a great way for disabled students and recent graduates to find summer, temporary, and permanent placements. The WRP, which is co-managed by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) and the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Human Resources Activity’s (DHRA) Diversity Management Operations Center (DMOC), connects federal and private sector employers with qualified post-secondary students and recent graduates for temporary and permanent job opportunities. You can access WRP’s website at https://www.wrp.gov/.

 

WRP database

 

A database of applicants is compiled for employers to find qualified candidates to fill positions and recruit eligible individuals. Candidates cannot use the database to search for potential jobs. The applicant’s information will be included in the database for one year. Potential employers use this information to reach out to prospective candidates. The program successfully places a number of candidates in private and federal sector summer and permanent employment positions, with more than 7,000 candidates having been successfully placed since the program’s inception in 1995. 

 

Eligibility

 

To be eligible for participation in the program, you must:

  • – have a disability and be eligible under Schedule A hiring authority
    – be a United States citizen,
    and
  • be a full-time student (unless your disability precludes you from having a substantially full-time course load) or have graduated within two and a half years of the December release of the database from a U.S. Department of Education accredited college or university.
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For example, for the fall 2020 application period, graduates from as early as April 2018 could apply. Veterans who were precluded from applying within those two years may apply up to two years after release from active duty, but no more than six years following the completion of requirements of the academic course of study. Phone interviews are conducted in October and early November. Registration takes place via the WRP’s website at https://www.wrp.gov/wrp and opens in late August. Registration closes in early to mid-October.

 

In 2020, registration opened on August 24 and closes on October 14. 

 

What is Schedule A?

 

Schedule A is a hiring authority that allows federal agencies to use a non-competitive process to hire qualified individuals with disabilities. For more information about Schedule A, and how to navigate Schedule A to find employment within the federal government, you can visit our other resources in our article specifically on Schedule A . 

 

A Schedule A sample letter can be found here

A Schedule A checklist can be found at here

 

Reflections from WRP Success Stories

 

We spoke with people who were placed via the WRP program, and they shared their advice and reflections on the program and process. Positions available for law students and law graduates vary. Legal positions are typically attorney advisor positions or legal intern positions. Other positions may include legal assistant, equal employment opportunity (EEO) positions in various agencies (these positions at various agencies ensure compliance with workplace anti-discrimination laws), office management positions, and office specialist positions, which may vary by office. For example, one person said one office had an ethics-based specialist position. 

 

Although there are some attorney positions, most positions are not attorney positions. Most are J.D. advantage positions. There are also non-legal program manager and analyst positions that will pay law school students and graduates more by virtue of their degree and place law school graduates and students on a higher General Schedule (GS) scale, but they are not necessarily legal positions. Many positions available are through the Department of Defense and Department of Labor. However, other government agencies, such as the Department of State, also have positions available. Many positions are either in disability, civil rights, or general counsel offices. For many positions, agencies may be hiring graduates for more temporary positions, such as an internship, with the possibility that those positions may be extended or renewed. The internships are paid. 

 

You will not be able to search for these positions. If you are interested in searching for positions, you can go through the Schedule A or competitive process using the website at USAjobs.gov. The jobs through Schedule A are not the same jobs as those in WRP, but they are similar.  

 

One WRP hire we spoke with suggested asking, “What kind of skills does this position require?” That is a helpful way to determine, among other things, whether the position requires a J.D. One potential WRP position, a final agency decision writer within an Equal Employment Opportunity office, requires legal skills, according to our contacts. They are sometimes listed as legal positions depending upon the level of experience the positions require.

 

How to apply

 

Current students who apply must use their institution’s coordinator as a point of contact for any questions directed to the WRP. However, graduates may reach out directly to the Workforce Recruitment Program contact at the Department of Labor via email at wrp@dol.gov .

 

Required documents include a résumé and a Schedule A letter. Additional documents include cover letters, recommendations, and others. Once you have a Schedule A letter written, you can reuse your Schedule A letter if you wish to participate in future cycles of the WRP. If the letter gets older, a prospective employer may reach out to the physician just to verify, but you should be able to reuse the letter. 

 

The interview process

 

Initial interviews that must occur to enter the database usually happen in late October or early November. The database opens by December or January. The database stays open through the next cycle. The timing of when employers reach out depends upon when they see your information. One contact said that, for their current permanent position search, employers reached out as far out as six months ago and as early as two weeks ago. 

 

Some interviews may be on-site at school (in non-COVID times), but interviews, generally, can also be scheduled remotely. Our contacts let us know that, if you ask for an interviewer’s contact information to send a thank you note after the interview, you should not take offense if the person cannot provide that information. It likely has to do with security concerns. 

 

One of our contacts informed us that they typically went through several interviews per year that they participated in the program during law school. Typically, they would do about five or six interviews. How long it would take to begin a position could depend upon the clearance required. Clearance for some positions could take longer than others, particularly if it requires higher clearance. 

 

One of the WRP hires we spoke to explained that she would not know how legal in nature the jobs were before she began many interviews, and these interviews were quite informal. Additionally, the hire would not always know whether an opportunity was an internship or permanent position, even if they specified they were only seeking one type of opportunity in their application. It is important to ask. 

 

Accommodations

 

As far as accommodations once work starts, our contacts typically did not experience issues. Many of their placements anticipated that they would require accommodations prior to joining their team, leading to less of a delay in implementation of accommodations. Otherwise, accommodations typically must be requested by the employee. Usually, federal agencies will have an individual responsible for handling accommodations requests. One contact informed us that they still had to go in twice during COVID to deal with their access card, but they are not sure whether there could be another way to accommodate higher risk individuals. Everything else has been remote. 

 

Conclusion

 

Although the WRP may not yield an attorney position or may only yield a temporary position at first (that could turn into a more permanent one), it is certainly a solid option for disabled recent graduates looking to break into the field, as well as for current students seeking internships. JD advantage positions are also extremely valuable—simply because not all positions are attorney positions does not mean it is not worth exploring the possibilities afforded through WRP.

 

If you are interested, this year’s application closes October 14, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. You can apply today via the WRP website at wrp.gov

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Marissa Ditkowsky

Marissa Ditkowsky

Co-Associate Director of Job Accommodations, American University Washington College of Law '19. Tzedek DC’s 2019-2021 Gallogly Family Foundation Fellow. Her project focuses on serving low-income DC residents with disabilities facing debt and the distinct issues they experience in the process.

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