This blog post was written and contributed by Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities (COSD), a member organization in the National Disability Mentoring Coalition.
Transitioning from college to the workforce can be challenging for everyone. But for college students with disabilities the data is clear – approximately 50 percent of college graduates with disabilities are unemployed and the majority of those who do have jobs are vastly under-employed. That’s why Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities (COSD) produces FULL ACCESS Student Summits, a bi-annual initiative as an educational and networking event for both students with disabilities and employers to come together to create meaningful career connections. The COSD FULL ACCESS Student Summit model achieves a significant and successful impact for participating students and employers across a variety of sectors.
From November 6-7, 2015, 60 college students with disabilities and 18 national employers participated in the COSD FULL ACCESS Student Summit in Chicago, IL with networking, workshops, and a career fair. The primary goal of the Student Summit is to teach college students and recent alumni with disabilities how to engage with employers, and for employers to gain first-hand experience with people with disabilities to keep this population in the forefront of their minds when developing diversity-inclusive recruitment plans. In short, FULL ACCESS is a kind of two-way mentoring that improves understanding and moves the needle on recruiting more college graduates with disabilities into the workforce.
Alan Muir, co-founder and Executive Director of COSD, started COSD in 2000 to remove the disconnect between post-secondary offices of disability services and career services at universities across the country. After the conclusion of the Chicago FULL ACCESS Summit, Alan remarked “we now have fully engaged employers that believe in disability as part of their diversity and inclusion initiatives, and they come to COSD to find, advise and recruit talented college students. What we didn’t anticipate was the learning the employers would experience in a form of reverse-mentoring.” Mr. Muir has won several national awards for his work, including the Paul Hearne Leadership Award from the American Association of People with Disabilities, and was recently inducted into the inaugural class of the Susan M. Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame. Susan and Paul were close friends and their legacies live on through leaders like Alan.
In conjunction with the Chicago COSD FULL ACCESS Student Summit, COSD convened its Annual National Conference to examine what is working in the career transition space, including innovative mentoring models. Barbara Butz and Steve Allen from PolicyWorks, Inc. (and members of the National Disability Mentoring Coalition) presented on Bridging the Gap from College to Careers (C2C), a Kessler Foundation-funded initiative. The C2C is an instructor-led online course that teaches students with disabilities the principles and practices associated with successful employment seeking and advancing strategies. To date 109 students have enrolled for credit, with eight graduating this past Spring, two returning to graduate school and four graduates earning an average salary of $69,000.
Clearly there is more work to do to successfully transition more graduates with disabilities into the workforce. COSD collaborates with universities, employers and innovative transition practitioners to create a real difference, and bring employment to some of the best and brightest college graduates who happen to have disabilities. Want to get involved? Contact COSD or Follow on Twitter @cosdcg.
About the Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities: COSD ‘s mission is to assist a college student or a recent graduate with a disability in gaining the tools and knowledge necessary to secure their career of choice. While this takes diligent work and effort, COSD believes that in partnership with campus Disability Services and Career Services offices, COSD can assist students with disabilities in becoming a competitive career candidate and successful employee. Learn more about COSD at www.cosdonline.org
About the National Disability Mentoring Coalition: The mission of the National Disability Mentoring Coalition (NDMC) is to increase the awareness, quality and impact of mentoring for individuals with disabilities across the nation. Member organizations share core values and align with the Coalition’s objectives to streamline communication, standardize and systematize data collection, reduce duplication of efforts, increase mentoring opportunities, and improve outcomes for youth and adults with disabilities. Members include: American Association of People with Disabilities, Association of University Centers on Disabilities, Broad Futures, Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities, Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, D.C. Public Schools, Easter Seals, Institute for Educational Leadership, Keep the Music Playing, Massachusetts Commission for the Blind, MENTOR: The National Partnership, Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation, National Council on Independent Living, Partners for Youth with Disabilities, PolicyWorks, Inc., The Viscardi Center, and United States Business Leadership Network. Learn more about the NDMC and its Members at: www.disabilitymentors.org.