Internship program helps create more inclusive workplaces

Proving that a disability doesn’t have to be a roadblock, alumni Damien Tran has charged ahead in his career thanks to the unique internship program Stepping Into.

The Bachelor of Urban and Regional Planning (Honours) graduate undertook an internship at the Victorian Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions (DJPR) as part of his final-year studies.

RMIT is a member of the Australian Network on Disability and participated in Stepping Into as both an education provider and employer. 

Alumni Damien Tran during his internship at Victorian Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions.

Tran said he was looking to expand his work experience and gain exposure in a government department when he applied for a Stepping Into internship, and was connected with DJPR – an RMIT partner – to join their team as a Project Support Officer in the Emergency Management Division’s resilience team.

The program is an initiative from the Australian Network on Disability (AND) that, since 2005, has matched over 1,000 tertiary students with disabilities with roles in leading businesses around the country. It aims to deepen the understanding of disability and exploring how workplaces can become more diverse, accessible and inclusive.

Tran, who has profound hearing loss in his right ear, said the six-week program in 2017 helped him gain confidence in speaking to managers about his disability and adjustments needed to help him in the workplace.

“I am proud to say, that after this experience, I feel confident in disclosing my disability within the workplace,” he said.

He gained skills in project management, report writing, research and teamwork, and is looking forward to using the experience as a highlight on his CV.

“With this experience under my belt, I’ve set myself a goal to find a job that is aligned to my interests, so that I can make a passionate difference,” Tran said.

Stepping Into Program Manager Isabel Heiner said it was fantastic to hear success stories like Tran’s, and that the program was mutually beneficial for students and employers.

“Students get experience, build their confidence and get support with helping them put their best foot forward towards their career. The program also gives managers new perspectives by shattering stereotypes and teaching them how to be more inclusive in the workplace,” she said.

“Stepping Into provides a valuable opportunity for students and employers to have those all-important conversations around accessibility and diversity in the workplace in a meaningful way.

“Our mission at AND is to create a disability-confident Australia – not just with our partners but we hope it has a flow on effect to all workplaces across the country, to create a level playing field for people with disabilities.”

Heiner said that RMIT was one of AND’s most supportive partners.

 “We work with organisations who want to work with us, who understand the value of the program and see that there is a need for it. It’s a demand-led model, which I think is what makes it a success,” she said.

The program has proven to be a rewarding experience for both the intern and the host, with 96% of Stepping Into supervisors said they’d volunteer to do it again.

Tran also shared his advice for anyone considering the Stepping Into program:

  • Don’t be scared to apply – even if your application’s unsuccessful, it’s still good practice and a fantastic opportunity to get feedback on your current CV or cover letter.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You’re not meant to know everything and there is no such thing as a dumb question.
  • Speak up if something isn’t working or if you’re interested in another team’s work.

 

Story: Jasmijn van Houten

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