UnitedHealth Group’s Engagement, Inclusion and Diversity Center of Excellence has launched the Disability Inclusion Internship Program. The career-development program, formed in partnership with disability workforce development agencies and nonprofit community partners, is open to all individuals with disabilities who have a desire to gain corporate experience in a diverse workforce with an inclusive culture.

"We know the extraordinary happens when we embrace a diverse workforce."

“It’s been an exciting journey to lead our company to be proactive in how we source candidates from this talented pool,” said Andrea Eselunas, director of disability inclusion programs at UnitedHealth Group. “We know the extraordinary happens when we embrace a diverse workforce. Not only have I seen fruitful gains from developing signature programs like the Disability Inclusion Internship, but also from bringing on two interns of my own through this program. We are truly better together.”

two colleagues collaborating

How It Works

The Disability Inclusion Internship Program takes place over the course of 12 to 15 weeks in a cohort setting during flexible full- or part-time hours. Interns are competitively paid for their time as they explore careers in the health care industry and receive hands-on training and mentoring to prepare for UnitedHealth Group corporate roles. Upon successful completion of the program, participants have opportunities to transition to part- or full-time employment.

Career tracks interns may explore include customer service, business operations, finance, information technology and clinical support. Meanwhile, UnitedHealth Group employees involved in the program gain valuable experience working with people who have self-identified that they have a disability.

“Hiring individuals with disabilities is a business imperative for UnitedHealth Group as we build the health care workforce of the future,” said Adam Hjerpe, CEO and general manager of ProtectWell, a UnitedHealth Group company, and executive sponsor of the Disability Inclusion steering committee. “We believe we can positively impact the unemployment rate for people with disabilities by providing candidates with corporate internship experience. Through this program, participants will develop career skillsets and gain tangible experiences, with opportunities to become full-time employees.”

Pilots of the Disability Inclusion Internship Program are taking place in San Antonio and Minneapolis, with the goal to expand the program over time and continue to use it as a pipeline for talent.

Advancing Disability Inclusion and Accessibility

Nationwide, companies that embrace and follow best practices for employing and supporting people with disabilities outperform their peers, according to research by Accenture, Disability:IN and the American Association of People with Disabilities.

Over a four-year period, the companies that researchers evaluated had 28% higher revenue, 30% higher economic profit margins and double the net income than their competitors. The analysis also found that increasing the labor force of people with disabilities by just 1% could boost the U.S. GDP up to $25 billion.

With 1 in 5 Americans having a disability, it’s critical to ensure UnitedHealth Group employees have the tools and technology they need to be successful. Key initiatives in this space include a centralized accommodations process and team as well as a companywide commitment to digital accessibility, all of which have contributed to the company’s recent designation as one of the best places to work for disability inclusion in 2020.

About National Disability Employment Awareness Month

The purpose of National Disability Employment Awareness Month is to educate about disability employment issues and celebrate the many and varied contributions of America's workers with disabilities.

This year marks the nation’s 75th observance of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy. Thirty years ago, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was also signed into law. The ADA is landmark civil rights legislation that works to increase access and opportunity for people with disabilities across society, including in the workplace.