For Shawn Williams, getting injured in Iraq in 2004 meant the end of his eight-year military career. While going through vocational rehab in Oklahoma following his discharge from the Army, Williams was introduced to the Workforce Recruitment Program for college students with disabilities, a program that assists with government internships.
Only two classes short of his bachelor’s degree, Williams applied and was accepted into the program in the beginning of 2012. With several organizations vying to bring him on board, Williams said he ultimately chose the Defense Logistics Agency for reasons close to his heart.
“Once all my information was put in the system, my resume, transcripts and my counselor’s recommendation, I was interviewed by four or five different agencies,” he said. “Mr. Baillie (DLA chief of staff Fred Baillie) did my interview here, and I decided to choose DLA. I had already known about the logistics portion of DLA, plus Virginia is home. I could be close to home and work for a good agency where I could support the warfighter.”
The WRP, co-sponsored by the Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy and the Department of Defense, connects federal and private-sector employers nationwide with college students for internships at no cost to the agencies. For Williams, his WRP assignment in the Director Staff Group’s office at the McNamara Headquarters Complex provided an opportunity to get up close and personal with the inner workings of DLA.
“I sat in on a couple of meetings and was able to see all the senior executive officers at once and the conversations that went on,” he said. “I was in the eyesight of everybody there. It gave me the opportunity to actually see how the organization functions as a whole, from the senior level on down.”
After working in the director’s office since May, Williams was converted to a career position as a management analyst in DLA Installation Support on Aug. 27. He said the new position came with increased responsibility.
“Right now, I analyze and review over 2,000 agreements between DLA, DoD agencies, and private sector agencies to prepare for audit readiness,” he said. “It’s more responsibility than I had in the director's office. I get to see everything that is going on between DLA and its customers.”
Williams’ supervisor, Nancy Brown, a supervisory management analyst, is a keen enthusiast of the WRP, emphasizing that the program has helped fill her office’s vacancies more quickly.
“It’s wonderful that we have that opportunity to get folks on quicker because the normal recruitment and hiring process can take time,” she said. “It’s helped us fill it by getting the right people with the right skills matched to what we need. It also adds the level of expediency; it helps moves the process a little bit faster.”
Realizing that WRP interns can come from different walks of life can be extremely beneficial, said Brown, a 28-year DoD employee who welcomes changes in perspective.
“College students, recent graduates and folks with disabilities are able to come in and hit the ground running and you get them fresh,” she said. “They have that education experience or real-time experience that lends itself to the spirit of entrepreneurship. What I mean by that is the innovation and initiative you get with someone who is fresh from another experience, whether it be through school or the military, it’s always beneficial and it gives you a different perspective that’s refreshing.”
With an aging workforce slowly retiring and departing, Brown said she also recognizes the importance of WRP interns and their role in the passing of knowledge learned by those in her generation.
“I hate to reveal my age, but we are an aging workforce, and it’s nice to pass that torch onto the next generation,” she said. “The WRP referrals may be a different generation, some of them are close to my age, most of them are not though. You get to do that knowledge transfer to the next generation so they can fill your shoes, and then you have the confidence in knowing that the mission will still progress and move forward.”
Serving a higher purpose or mission is important to DLA employees, Brown said.
“Here you get things and traits you don’t always get everywhere else such as esprit de corps, you know, that feeling of ownership that you’re working for a higher purpose,” she said. “Within DLA, our higher purpose is warfighter support, so coming to work every day knowing that you’re serving your country as well as those that are defending our country, it gives you that sense of higher purpose. When you work for DLA, you immediately get that higher purpose of coming to work.”
Williams said the job he qualified for through the Workforce Recruitment Program will help him achieve his own mission: earning a master’s degree.
“The program gave me a better chance to get hired on,” he said. “I plan on continue to do training, take leadership development courses, and I’m also going to look into courses for my masters.”