Cornell University: Cerebral Palsy
Career Builder for College Students

By Jim Hasse, ABC, GCDF, Disability Employment Expert

“Don’t miss your important connections at Cornell University.” That needs to be your key message to the college student with cerebral palsy (CP) you’re guiding as a career coaching parent, counselor or mentor.

Here’s why.

The Employer Assistance and Resource Network (EARN)) is your college student’s connection to the Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP).

EARN is part of the National Employer Technical Assistance, Policy and Research Center at Cornell University.

It is funded by the Office of Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Department of Labor.

The WRP is a win-win for college students with disabilities and disability-friendly employers.

But, first, a little background. During my last 20 years of researching disability employment issues, I’ve noticed that the three most common statements I hear from closely-involved people as well as those only slightly involved in employee recruiting are these:

  1. “Employers can’t find qualified job candidates with disabilities.”

  2. “Job candidates with disabilities are often overlooked in on-campus interviews with employers that are organized by career services staff.”

  3. “Those students with disabilities who happen to land a job interview are often unprepared to effectively show why they are qualified for a specific job.”

Those three statements are not my suppositions. They have been a stubborn reality for four decades since the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Consider this finding. According to the National Council on Disability’s 2008 study, “Achieving Independence: The Challenge of the 21st Century,” the most commonly cited reason among employers for not hiring people with disabilities is a “lack of qualified applicants.”

Cornell University and the WRP are proving that “not finding candidates with disabilities who are qualified and prepared” just does not have to be the case in this second decade of the 21st Century.

The WRP today is paving the way to brighter employment prospects for thousands of college students with a disability and access to new (and qualified) emerging talent for hundreds of employers across the U.S.

Map of what college grads need to find a job: Internships, experience, etc.att

EARN at Cornell University is your first connection

Your college student with CP needs to connect with EARN at Cornell University, the gateway to the WRP.

Since 1995, the WRP has provided employment opportunities for over 6,000 students with a disability, according to Kathleen Lee, business outreach specialist, Cornell University.

As a recruitment and referral initiative, the WRP connects federal and private sector employers nationwide with highly motivated post-secondary students and recent graduates with disabilities who are eager to prove their abilities in the workplace through summer or permanent jobs.

The WRP is co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) and the U.S. Department of Defense with the participation of many other federal agencies and sub-agencies.

What other services like the WRP
provide students with disabilities
access to internships?
Join PACER’s
Facebook discussion.

What to do to get into WRP's database

How does your college student get on the WRP’s database? Here are a few things you need to know.

First, to participate in the WRP, your college student must be at least 18 years old and submit an online resume to the Employer Assistance and Resource Network (EARN). Your college student’s campus needs to have at least eight students with a disability apply for the WRP before a recruiter begins interviewing.

Second, contact the Disability Student Service (DSS) career counselor on your youngster’s campus to make sure the school is a WRP participant.

Third, to become a part of the WRP’s annual database, your son or daughter needs to apply online at in August of each year in order to participate in the DSS training sessions on campus and meet with a disability-trained recruiter during October and November.

Candidates who qualify for the database are then contacted by EARN. The database is launched in December, and employers who complete an online request form can recruit students between December and July of the following year.

Fourth, candidates who become eligible for the database usually do well in both written and oral communication during interviews by a recruiter who understands disability employment issues.

Using a rating of 1 to 5, a recruiter evaluates each student applicant in terms of qualifications (based on transcripts, resume and experience), maturity, written and oral communication (the “biggie”) and direction as well as an overall score. A student must score 3.0 or better in the overall rating to be eligible for the database.

Lee says the WRP offers advantages to both job seekers and employers during the recruitment process.

Job seekers, for instance, get the support they may need to present themselves effectively during the database selection process. They are able to interview with a recruiter who understands disability. They are part of a recruitment process that offers a “level” playing field that engages employers who actively seeking job candidates with disabilities.

And employers feel more confident that they are interviewing highly qualified students with disabilities as part of their overall recruitment strategies and that they have access to emerging talent. They have an opportunity to assess whether particular candidates are the “right fit” for their companies through an internship experience.

When I graduated from college in 1965, career counseling at the University of Wisconsin-Madison did not exist as we know it today. My academic advisor candidly said that, yes, indeed, he thought I could hold a job, despite the fact I had CP and walked and talked with difficulty.

He recommended I apply for state government work, even though the economy and job prospects in the private sector were quite bright at the time and my classmates were getting good paying jobs in the private sector.

That was the extent of career counseling back then. I needed Cornell University, EARN and the WRP. Cornell University was around, of course, but EARN and WRP were not.

Please help your college student with CP take full advantage of the expanded opportunities he or she has through Cornell University by first researching EARN and the WRP.

The WRP could open doors for him or her to the mainstream workplace.

What other services like the WRP
provide students with disabilities
access to internships?
Join PACER’s
Facebook discussion.

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This is Creative Commons content.  You can freely and legally use, share and repurpose it for non-commercial purposes only, provided you attach this sentence and the following attribution to it (including the two links):

Originally written and illustrated by Jim Hasse, ABC, GCDF, owner of Hasse Communication Counseling, LLC, who, as a person with cerebral palsy, served for 10 years as a vice president in a Fortune 500 company during his 29-year career in corporate communication. He’s an Accredited Business Communicator, certified as a Global Career Development Facilitator and author of 14 Amazon books about disability awareness and disability employment issues.