The Power of Partnerships

NOTE: October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Ethan - Photo 2

By Chris Pope, OSERS RSA, and Kathy West-Evans, CSAVR


Partnerships between state vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies and the private sector have helped individuals with disabilities served by state VR agencies to meet their career goals.

Ethan, a young man with Autism, secured a paid internship with HP Inc. last spring thanks in part to a partnership between the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation’s (CSAVR) National Employment Team (NET), Michigan Rehabilitation Services (MRS), and Michigan Technological University (MTU).

MRS staff in the Marquette, Michigan office partnered with MTU earlier this year to identify students to participate in HP Inc.’s Spectrum Success Program, and they quickly agreed that Ethan, who received MRS VR services, would make a great candidate.

Ethan, with support from MRS and MTU, applied to the program. HP Inc. selected him to attend its weeklong training and interview program.

Ethan flew to HP’s headquarters in Boise, Idaho in March 2019 uncertain if an internship would happen but knowing the experience would be invaluable.

After three days of activities to help applicants develop optimal interview skills, several HP Inc. managers interviewed Ethan and offered him a computer science internship with its Firmware team.

Ethan returned to Boise two months later to start his internship.

HP Inc. encouraged Ethan to get to know other staff and take time to socialize with colleagues at lunch and during breaks. Ethan said this was invaluable to him as it allowed him to feel like he “finally found his people” instead of struggling to fit in.

HP Inc. set up Ethan with a mentor, a supportive supervisor and an inclusive hiring manager to make sure his experience was exceptional.

Ethan - Photo 1

During his internship, Ethan worked on a programming project to free up memory in a new printer. Ethan said he completed this project, which included coding in an HP codebase, ahead of schedule and successfully presented his work at HP Inc.’s Intern Fair.

Ethan used the extra time to identify other ways to use the application and said he found even more applications for the process that he used on his main project. These applications could allow the team to save money in their future products, according to Ethan.

Ethan said he left HP Inc. not only feeling like he had a professional future after graduating from college but also very proud that the work he led.

Ethan, who is currently finishing his senior year as a Computer Science major at MTU, said the experience at HP Inc. was priceless as it provided him the opportunity to develop confidence in himself as well as his abilities to work with others.

“The entire process has made a huge impact on a person like Ethan who just wants to be understood and accepted for his amazing talents,” Ethan’s mother said. “Providing people on the spectrum the chance to shine is not just a win for them, but also for the companies willing to invest in them.”

For more information about the VR program in Michigan, visit our partners at MRS and the Michigan Bureau of Services for Blind Persons.


The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services’ Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) has long promoted the power of partnerships in helping individuals with disabilities, served by State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agencies across the country, meet their career goals.

RSA is pleased to celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month and highlight partnerships and success stories for individuals with disabilities.


Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees, and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. Articles do not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.

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