Replication of AccessSTEM CAREERS

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AccessSTEM CAREERS is funded by the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation and directed by the Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology (DO-IT) center. The project promotes science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields to students with disabilities in the Seattle area and works with career centers at local colleges to help make offerings welcoming and accessible to students with disabilities. Project partners are the University of Washington (UW), Bellevue College, and the Seattle College District.

Project Activities for Students with Disabilities: At partner colleges, AccessSTEM CAREERS students engage in the following activities:

  • STEM Career Development Workshops. In this monthly series of workshops, students have engaged in a STEM research lab, a resume-writing workshop, student competitions, hands-on activities with assistive technology, and an exploration of resources.
  • Work-Based Learning. Students engage with mentors in mock interviews, job shadows, internships, and other work-based learning activities.
  • Online Mentoring and Peer Support. Students engage in an online community supporting the pursuit of STEM careers.
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Project Activities for Employers: Employer mentors address student questions and interests regarding career development, STEM academic programs, internships, and labor market trends. They have access to student resumes, learn about good candidates for internships and jobs, and host work-based learning experiences.

Project Activities for Postsecondary Career Centers: Career counselors engage in professional development and online discussions about making career services welcoming and accessible to students with disabilities. AccessSTEM CAREERS student leaders help career counselors conduct accessibility reviews of career center facilities, products, and services.

Funding

Logo for Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation

Funding for AccessSTEM CAREERS was provided by the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation (MEAF), the corporate foundation of the Mitsubishi Electric group companies in the United States. MEAF works to make Changes for the Better in society by investing in innovative strategies to empower youth with disabilities to lead productive lives. Since its inception, MEAF and Mitsubishi Electric Employee Volunteers have invested $14 million and more than 40,000 volunteer hours in U.S. based nonprofit organizations. The Foundation has provided $7.6 million in National Grants that promote the full inclusion of youth with disabilities in society. MEAF has also given nearly $3 million in Matching Grants and Starfish Matches, doubling the $3 million in charitable contributions of cash, products and volunteer time donated by Mitsubishi Electric US companies and their employees. View the MEAF 20th anniversary video here.

Methods Selected to Implement Objectives

Method Selection: People with disabilities face unique barriers to education and employment. These barriers include lack of encouragement; underdeveloped self-determination and self-advocacy skills; little access to successful role models; social isolation; lack of awareness of technology that can increase success; and low expectations from family, teachers, counselors, service providers, and faculty. The methods that were selected to implement project objectives address these barriers. They were identified through

  • a review of career development and student development literature;
  • input from people with disabilities, including the DO-IT advisory board and postsecondary students;
  • input from career development professionals;
  • consultation with employers; and
  • the adoption of successful practices from previous DO-IT projects.

Methods and Critical Junctures

The methods that were selected to implement objectives

Method Selection: People with disabilities face unique barriers to education and employment. These barriers include lack of encouragement; underdeveloped self-determination and self- advocacy skills; little access to successful role models; social isolation; lack of awareness of technology that can increase success; and low expectations from family, teachers, counselors, service providers, and faculty. The methods that were selected to implement project objectives address these barriers. They were identified through

  • a review of career development and student development literature;
  • input from people with disabilities, including the DO-IT advisory board and postsecondary students;
  • input from career development professionals;
  • consultation with employers; and
  • the adoption of successful practices from previous DO-IT projects.

Critical Junctures for STEM Students with Disabilities

In projects implemented by DO-IT, effective student interventions are organized into a model of inputs to promote movement through critical junctures to bring students from underrepresented groups into STEM fields. Inputs in the model address issues that encourage people to learn science (attraction), choose to keep learning mathematics and science (retention), graduate (persistence), and secure STEM careers.

Participants, Recruitment, Admission, and Location

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Participants, Recruitment, and Admission

Students, employers, and mentors are recruited through email announcements, postsecondary disability services offices and career centers, a project website, STEM conferences, student organizations, MEAF, and through DO-IT's extensive network of STEM industry partners in the Seattle region.

Location

All in-person activities of AccessSTEM CAREERS take place in the Seattle area. Many events occur on the University of Washington campus. Mentors from across the United States, many with disabilities themselves, participate in online discussions about job readiness, employment accommodations, disability disclosure, and the labor market.

Activities for Students with Disabilities, Employers, and Career Centers

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For Students with Disabilities

Onsite at the UW and other partner colleges, postsecondary students with disabilities increase knowledge and skills with respect to STEM career preparation through the following activities:

  • STEM Career Development Workshops. An ongoing series of workshops include visits to STEM research labs, resume-writing and cover letter workshops, a "how-to" networking session, hands-on engagement with assistive technology and accessible science equipment, exploration of career development resources, and a forum on accommodations in science labs and scientific field work.
  • Work-Based Learning. Students participate in work-based learning activities with mentors and industry representatives. They have opportunities to complete mock interviews and job shadows in the community. Project staff help students identify and apply for internship experiences. Students are referred to existing internship programs that are designed to recruit students with disabilities (e.g., the U.S. Department of Labor's Workforce Recruitment Program, ENTRYPOINT!) and programs for all students (e.g., on-campus career fairs).
  • Student Leadership Team. Six students with disabilities receive stipends to help design, promote, and implement project activities and conduct accessibility reviews of career centers. Student leaders serve for 6-12 month terms and act as liaisons to their respective campus.
  • Online Mentoring and Peer Support. Students join an online community supporting the pursuit of STEM careers, where members share experiences, offer advice, and exchange information about scholarships, internships, workshops, academic programs, and other opportunities. Mentors include those with disabilities as well as those who do not have disabilities.
  • Leadership Opportunities. Students have opportunities to speak on panels about STEM inclusion, lead STEM industry field trips for teens with disabilities, participate in existing STEM programs (e.g., the UW College of Engineering Discovery Days), and mentor younger students.
  • Student Competitions. Student competitions include an “elevator pitch” contest where students succinctly describe their experiences and career path, a STEM resume competition, and an essay competition called "What I did over the summer to further my pursuit of STEM."
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Examples of Student Workshops

  • Friday Meet-Up at the Burke Museum Café, 1/24/14
  • STEM Night at the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering, 2/7/14
  • Event at the UW Career Fair, 2/12/14
  • Mentoring with CEO of Ekso Bionics, 3/4/14
  • Exhibit at Seattle Central College Career Fair, 4/17/14
  • Student-run exhibit at UW College of Engineering Discovery Days, 4/25-26/14
  • BC’s Autism Spectrum Video Game Tourney & Resource Fair, 4/26/14
  • Event at the Bellevue College Job and Networking Fair, 5/8/14
  • Ability Experience at Bellevue College, 5/15/14
  • STEM Night on the UW Campus (visit to a UW lab), 5/30/14
  • Elevator Pitch Contest, 6/24/14
  • Career Panel of STEM Professionals with Disabilities, 7/23/14
  • Mock Interviews with Industry, 7/24/14
  • Seattle Aquarium Accessibility Review, 8/28/14
  • Essay context “What I did over the summer to pursue STEM”, 9/30/14
  • Workshop on Federal Employment at Bellevue College, 10/2/14
  • Back to School: STEM Night with UW Students, 10/3/14
  • UW Bothell Job and Internship Fair, 10/9/14
  • Disability Awareness Week at Seattle Central College, 10/13-17/14
  • Science and Engineering Career Fair at UW, 10/20/14
  • Workforce Recruitment Program at UW, 11/14/14
  • STEM Resume Contest, 12/15/14
  • Disability Disclosure Workshop with Microsoft and the FAA, 2/27/15
  • Second Annual Elevator Pitch Contest, 4/14/15
  • Engineering Discovery Days Exhibit, 4/24-25/15
  • Job and Networking Fair at Bellevue College, 4/29/15
  • Career Fair at Microsoft, 5/5/15
  • Occupational Therapy Leadership Panel at UW, 5/26/15
  • STEM Career Panel at Microsoft, 7/17/15
  • National USBLN Conference Student Preconference, 9/26-30/15
  • Training on Pursuing Federal Internships in preparation for WRP at BC, 10/6/15
  • A-Team Student Panel at Seattle Central College, 10/8/15
  • STEM Networking Night on the UW Campus, 10/23/15
  • WRP Campus Interviews at UW, 11/12-17/15
  • STEM Resume Contest, 12/21/15-1/29/16
  • A-Team Document Accessibility Training, 12/29/15
  • STEM Networking Night on the UW Campus, 2/5/16
  • Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation 25th Anniversary Conference, 2/24/16
  • Disability Disclosure for Students in the Workplace at UW, 3/31/16
  • UW Engineering Discovery Days, 4/22/16
  • Microsoft Ability Summit Career Fair, 4/6/16
  • Autism Acceptance event at Bellevue College, 4/9/16
  • STEM Networking Night on the UW Campus, 5/6/16
  • Internship and Job Fair at Bellevue College, 5/11/16
  • Disability Disclosure Workshop at Bellevue College, 5/17/16
  • Mock Interview Workshop at Bellevue College, 5/24/16
  • WA State Business Leadership Network Job Fair, 6/9/16
  • Elevator Pitch Workshop at Microsoft 7/15/16
  • Mock Interview Workshop at UW 7/21/16
  • Elevator Pitch Workshop at Western Washington University 7/28/16

For Employers

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Online and in-person mentoring engages students regarding career development, STEM academic programs, internships, and labor market trends. Employers have opportunities to host postsecondary STEM students with disabilities at their work site to conduct informational interviews or host students for job shadows. They engage students around self-advocacy and demonstrate high expectations of postsecondary students with disabilities. Employer mentors have access to student resumes and consult with project staff about candidates for internships and job openings. Mentors have opportunities to help inform and develop project materials, such as the project website, promotional materials, and articles to be published in the DO-IT Knowledge Base.

For Postsecondary Career Centers

Project staff, along with the student leadership team, utilize the DO-IT publication Equal Access: Universal Design of Career Services to conduct accessibility reviews of postsecondary career centers at Seattle area colleges. The publication, which underwent formative evaluation with stakeholders, has received high praise from career development professionals. It offers a checklist for making career services welcoming, accessible, and usable by people with disabilities. The checklist describes universal design applications to physical environments, staffing and training, information resources, technology, and event planning.

Highlights

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    The Elevator Pitch Contests and Workshops were attended by a total of 95 participants and 42 industry mentors. These events were highly rated, and one mentor match resulted in a full-time, permanent job placement at the Federal Aviation Administration.

  • AccessSTEM CAREERS has hosted the annual on-campus Workforce Recruitment Program for college students and recent graduates. Participants receive assistance with resume building, elevator pitch and mock phone interview preparation allowing them to be more successful in the process. As of 2015, at least 5 participants found full-time work through WRP and over 70% reported being contacted by WRP hiring managers.
  • Four college career centers have completed accessibility reviews, where STEM students with disabilities tour the facility and speak with staff members to create a report about the accessibility of physical environments, staffing and training, information resources, technology, and event planning. All four reported making changes based on these reviews.
  • The UW Career Center, through AccessSTEM CAREERS, has piloted a Resume Book specifically for students with disabilities who want their resume available to recruiters.
  • The Bellevue College Center for Career Connections partnered with AccessSTEM CAREERS and the Washington State Business Leadership Network to host a Disability Career Fair. Over 200 students and job seekers attended the event, including over 60 who came to the student preparation pre-event and support room focused on elevator pitches, resumes and general job search support strategies hosted by AccessSTEM CAREERS.

Collaborator Feedback

AccessSTEM CAREERS staff members regularly solicit feedback from mentors and collaborators. Comments from this reporting period included the following comments:

  • “DO-IT and AccessSTEM CAREERS has allowed us to extend our reach and serve our Bellevue College students with disabilities much more effectively.  DO-IT has helped the Center for Career Connections make our website, print publications, and physical space all more accessible. Here’s one small example: every year, we receive many compliments and queries from other colleges about our online career pathways tools, but until 2015 these tools were not navigable by screen readers. AccessSTEM CAREERS staff worked with our web developer to devise solutions that made these online tools fully accessible.”
    – Postsecondary career center partner
     
  • AccessSTEM CAREERS staff have helped us launch several new initiatives. Their staff helped plan and present our first ever workshop on Disability Disclosure in the Job Search and the Workplace this May. They have provided important support during the four years of our participation in the Workforce Recruitment Program, the marquis federal internship and jobs program for students with disabilities.  This June, Bellevue College played host to the Washington State Business Leadership Network’s first-ever Disability Career Fair, and we simply could not have done it without the support of our friends at AccessSTEM CAREERS. This was a major event attended by 30 of the largest employers in the state, including Microsoft, Boeing, Nordstrom, and Alaska Airlines. Project staff worked shoulder to shoulder with BC personnel to assist with planning details, arranging accommodations, and assisting with community and employer relations. Project staff also hosted a resource room for attendees and brought their ATeam of amazing student employees to provide frontline support on the day of the event. The event was a huge success, and most of the credit should go to DO-IT and AccessSTEM CAREERS. Simply put, AccessSTEM CAREERS staff know how to break down barriers that stand between students with disabilities and the world of work. They have been our best, most reliable partners over the past few years.”
    – Postsecondary career center partner
     
  • “The resources provided for students with disabilities, including skill-building workshops and targeted career fairs, are immensely helpful for students to build their networks, learn to advocate for themselves, articulate their skills, and help the students leverage their disability as an asset. Students that are involved in AccessSTEM CAREERS are very well-prepared for the workforce.”
    – Microsoft employee partner

Evaluation

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Mentor Surveys

Surveys at the end of the project asked mentors about their overall mentoring experience, how they benefited from the project, and their perception of how students benefited from project offerings.

The following are responses from mentors who were asked about their overall experience:

“The mentoring experiences I have been involved in have very committed and interested students who want to learn more. Students and other mentors are passionate, and the other mentors absolutely want these students to succeed in their career—whether it’s an internship, first job, or in the middle of their career.”

“Excellent. It’s always good to see youth and job seekers with disabilities bringing up difficult and challenging issues and wanting answers to improve their knowledge and self-advocacy skills.”

Meeting these students and interacting with them in person was a great experience. Offering my experience in the HR field I believe really helped these students prep for future interviews and resume prep. I was mentored during college and my first hand experience with being a student moving into the professional world with this mentorship behind me really helped! I believe this mentor opportunity at UW is preparing these kids with the same guidance I was given.”

The following are responses from mentors who were asked about how they benefited:

By working one on one with students and even other mentors, it allows me to do my job better. To design better products, programs and to see who in my community is going to use and benefit from them. It's powerful. You can read all day long, but doing and experiencing holds the power.”

“I definitely benefited! Events like this help me in my professional career by helping me understand my own interview process and how it could improve.”

“Working in the disability field, the opportunity to have discussions with students on hot-button issues allows for me to see what disability barriers continue to be prevalent in the communities and in the employment sector.”

“This experience has exposed me to more and more students, and the variety of their backgrounds, interest, and skillsets helps me learn different ways to mentor. For example, I have a stronger background in accommodations and resources for mobility and visual impairments, but I have been exposed to many individuals with a variety of disabilities, so I am more able to speak to some of the resources for those disabilities.”

The following are responses from mentors who were asked about how students benefited:

I am certain that these students all took something away from the mentoring opportunities. Many students have some idea of the accommodations they will need in the workforce and when to ask for them. Through our sessions on disability disclosure and self-identification, students are more aware of the many opportunities when working with a new or existing employer. I think these students have learned to speak with confidence about what they need, how it will help them succeed, and also how they will help their organization succeed.”

“The ability to reach out to a field of mentors when addressing a question has a greater impact, as it results in different perspectives, experiences and resources. This provides students with more informed choices to make better decisions on how to move forward and/or solve a problem.”

“My read is that students sharpen their skills in this process...and seem to enjoy meeting our members-several always follow-up for more info from us in order to be more current on their fields.”

“As an HR manager I have first hand knowledge with viewing resumes and doing interviews. I gave these students real techniques and tips to make it through interviews and help their resumes be a bit more efficient. It is the little things you can do sometime to help you get a second interview or even a first interview.”

“One (student) came to work with one of our teams and continues to spread the things he learned through the project. He's now a student and a mentor! That is success.”

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STEM Student and Job Seeker Surveys

Surveys at the end of the project asked mentors about their involvement in the project. When asked about what was learned as a result of participation, the most common responses were related to making career decisions, finding internships/jobs, learning about resumes and interviews, and realizing that there are companies and individuals that are interested in hiring individuals with disabilities; this included the following comments:

“Increased ability to perform well during job interviews and advocate for myself.”

Increased knowledge of technology and tools available to help me thrive in academic/workplace environments.”

“Just how many options there are in STEM fields and how vital they are to everybody.”

The more interviews you do, the better you get. Practice!”

“When I get stuck, I should ask. There is a mentor out there that has already tackled my issues.”

“The career center is a great resource and they actually know how to work with people with disabilities.”

“(I learned) how to write resumes, elevator pitches, and other essential pieces of writing for job searching and related purposes.”

“Recruiters and companies want to see the best in diversity, and they are eager to learn more as well.”

“Editing resumes is not as difficult as it sounds!”

“Having a community that understands the challenges that you're going through is just as important as finding and getting a job that is a good fit.”

When asked about how participating in the project changed how participants felt about succeeding in STEM programs and STEM fields, the most common response was related to increased confidence in success. Specific comments included the following:

After I graduated I felt like there just wasn't room for someone like me in STEM fields. As a person with a psychiatric disability I felt stigmatized... I felt as though I had been outcast due to the difficulties I have communicating about issues in which there is conflict. Being involved with AccessSTEM Careers has renewed my faith in my ability to overcome my disability and become productive in my field.”

“This project made me more inclined to succeed in college and pursue a STEM field of study. My participation in this project helped me see the potential that technology has for people with accessibility issues. I also got to meet plenty of nice people, understand their needs better, and get new ideas for how to help them. Furthermore, seeing these people pursue STEM fields of study helps encourage me to do the same.”

“Prior to AccessSTEM Careers, I never truly considered the importance of disclosing one's disability, and when it would be important and when it would not be important. The disability disclosure workshop has helped me educate my supervisors on the importance of reasonable accommodations and advocate for equal access at work. I now know when it is necessary to disclose my disability and at the same time not jeopardize my chances at securing a job.”

“Going to the internship and career fairs is less scary now that I have gone to a few, and while I still need to work on my networking pitches, I have improved in building self-confidence and knowing roughly what I would like to talk about, as well as strategies for making the best use of career fairs.”

I got to network with other students, recent graduates, and employees… I was able to ask those people questions to answer my concerns about my future. It was very helpful because I was able to hear different perspectives from different people.”

“(I realized) there are others who came before me and that if they can succeed, I can.”

I became more aware of what it takes to succeed in college and what I can do to ensure success for myself.”

AccessSTEM Career Products

Additional Resources

Contact

For more information about the accessibility of postsecondary career centers, or to learn more about supporting the pursuit of STEM by people with disabilities, contact DO-IT online, call 206-685-3648 (voice/TTY), or email doit@uw.edu.

For information about the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation, visit online.