Internship experience gives Honours student with disability a competitive edge

Wed 20 February 2019

Man smiles and stands in front of a two huge screens displaying Australian maps

Image: Damien Tran, Stepping Into intern 

When the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR) heard about the Stepping Into internship program, they saw it as an opportunity to deepen their understanding of disability and explore how they could make the workplace more accessible.

Through Stepping Into, they connected with Damien Tran, an RMIT University Honours student of Urban and Regional Planning. Damien was looking to expand his work experience and gain exposure in a state government department, with a focus on resilience, risk and emergency management. He was thrilled to be chosen to join the DEDJTR team as a Project Support Officer.

The Department was keen to provide Damien with a project that had clear deliverables, as well as give him authentic opportunities to explore his areas of interest. As a result, he worked in the Emergency Management Division’s Resilience team.

“Damien delivered a quality report that used his research and writing skills to good effect,” said supervisor Jo Tan.

“We are pleased we could also provide him with the opportunity to attend the Emergency Management Conference, a significant event on the emergency management calendar, as well as observe a state marine pollution exercise at the State Crisis Centre.”

Damien gained skills in project management, report writing, research and teamwork, and is delighted with how much he learned through the program, all relevant to his career aims and interests. He’s 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,” said Damien.

Jo describes having a new perspective in the office, with different experiences and insights, as refreshing for the team.

“It was pleasing to see Damien’s confidence in his skills and subject matter expertise grow. The variety of opinions and experiences of people he worked with had a positive impact in focusing and challenging Damien.”

Damien’s advice for anyone considering the program:

  1. 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.
  2. Stepping Into is a great experience and you’ll learn a lot of skills you can apply later on.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You’re not meant to know everything and there is no such thing as a dumb question.
  4. Speak up if something isn’t working or if you’re interested in another team’s work.

About Stepping Into

Stepping Into is a national internship program run by the Australian Network on Disability. It matches skilled university students with disability to roles offered by organisations actively seeking to employ people with disability as part of their recruitment strategy and in their graduate programs.

Since Stepping Into started in 2005, more than 1,200 students have gained internships with over 110 organisations across Australia. It has become a valued talent pipeline and an effective foundation from which organisations can:

  • Change attitudes
  • Build disability confidence
  • Improve hiring practices
  • Enhance inclusive leadership
  • Cultivate a diverse and inclusive workplace culture.

A rewarding experience for both the intern and the host, 96 per cent of Stepping Into supervisors said they’d volunteer to do it again.


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