The Defense Logistics Agency proved its commitment to employing people with disabilities by dominating the Defense Department’s 2019 Workforce Recruitment Program Awards in a July 18 ceremony in Alexandria, Virginia. The agency placed in all four categories for the first time and was named WRP Component of the Year for the second year.
The awards recognize organizations and individuals who participate in or support WRP, an annual recruitment and referral program that places prescreened college students and recent graduates with disabilities in 14-week internships at federal agencies.
WRP Participant of the Year is Nicholas Abbott, an environmental protection specialist interning with DLA Installation Management. Michelle Franklin from DLA Disposition Services’ Equal Employment Opportunity Office is the WRP Coordinator of the Year, and Eric Spanbauer from DLA Headquarters EEO is WRP Recruiter of the Year.
“The real win is everyone benefits – WRP participants, DLA employees and DoD – as we work toward a more diverse workforce that brings in new and innovative ideas,” said Nancy Rivera, who manages DLA’s WRP.
Abbott is on his fourth internship with DLA. In July 2017, he worked for DLA Installation Management’s Process Management Directorate. He is now on his third internship with the Environmental Management Directorate, where he helped write the strategic plan outlining the office’s goals and initiatives. He was also led the Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day observance at the McNamara Headquarters Complex.
Kevin Kivimaki, deputy staff director for environmental management and Abbott’s supervisor, described the Christopher Newport University graduate as a self-starter and continuous learner.
“He’s helped out in a number of program areas and has been a real asset to the team,” he said. “We’ve been working him into as many different activities and tasks as we can to enhance his marketability and competitiveness for a permanent position.”
Abbott said he is proud of DLA’s overwhelming support for WRP and appreciates those who’ve guided him professionally.
“The program opens doors and provides opportunities that may not have otherwise been available to me. I want to be a career public servant, and this program really helped me get my foot in the door,” he said.
Franklin’s award recognizes work she did in her first year as a WRP coordinator. She helped local supervisors bring in 16 interns, two of which have been hired into permanent positions. As coordinator, she provided group and individual training for supervisors that highlighted previous successful matches. The program gives supervisors the chance to witness the work ethic of potential applicants with no strings attached, she said.
“As coordinator, it gives me the opportunity to interact with students all over the nation, sharing the benefits of working for the government,” she added.
As a volunteer recruiter, Spanbauer conducts phone interviews with candidates from participating colleges and universities and completes candidate profiles used by hiring officials to select interns. He first volunteered in 1996 while managing the Army’s WRP involvement and has since interviewed 561 WRP candidates and written recommendations for 456 students and recent graduates.
“Recruiters are an important part of the WRP because they compile the data that managers view to determine whether a candidate is a good fit for their office,” he said. “And since they’re familiar with aspects of the federal government, they can help candidates see the possibilities that exist within agencies like DLA.”
The awards are proof of the agency’s collective efforts to hire people with disabilities, Spanbauer and Rivera agreed. From human resources specialists who assist with the onboarding process and payroll functions to DLA supervisors who give interns a chance to demonstrate their talents, WRP is a team effort, Rivera said.
DLA’s involvement in WRP was also a key factor in the agency being named DoD’s best mid-sized component among employers of individuals with disabilities in 2018. The agency has received the distinction 17 times, more than any other component, since DoD created the award in 1991.
Of the 1,109 WRP interns DLA has temporarily hired since 1995, 150 had been permanently hired as of March through noncompetitive “Schedule A” authority or the agency’s Pathways to Career Excellence Program, a two-year program designed to train entry-level personnel for subsequent advancement.