Helping those with disabilities gain employment through internship experience

UnitedHealthcare’s disability and inclusion internship program

At a young age, Reid Madden often struggled to fit in with different groups at school. As someone with autism, he said he never felt confined by his diagnosis, but he recognized early on, he’d have to carve his own path. This was especially true when it came to entering the workforce. 

While he’s always been a natural communicator and had the qualifications to back that up, he struggled during the interview process, specifically in identifying social cues and engaging in small talk. 

“That can be a huge intimidation factor,” he said, “especially, you know, if it’s just you and the hiring person in the room together.”

While working with a vocational rehabilitation mentor, he was introduced to an opportunity that would allow him to not only find the support he needed but open the door to corporate experience. 

The UnitedHealth Group Disability Inclusion Internship Program helps provide competitively paid training, mentorship and development for those with disabilities across a number of roles throughout the enterprise. The cohort-style program takes place over the course of 12 to 15 weeks, and upon successful completion of the program, provides the opportunity to transition to part- or full-time employment.

The program was created to help positively impact the unemployment rate that exists within this community. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those with a disability are twice as likely to be unemployed, compared to those without. 

“The disability inclusion program really was a pilot,” said Andrea Eselunas, director of disability and inclusion for UnitedHealth Group. “It was a hope for us to really advance in the number of people to come in to really try this corporate setting and really give us their talents.”

In its first phase, 16 interns, including Reid, were hired. Each intern received hands-on training and experience in careers such as customer service, business operations, finance, information technology and sales communications — where Reid helps manage websites, copy edit and analyze data. 

“Reid is a great asset to the team,” said his supervisor Alissa Brown, director of sales communications and consulting for UnitedHealthcare. “Anytime you need help with something, or there’s a new project coming through the door, he is right there, ready to jump in and do whatever he can.”

For Reid, there’s a sense of pride being able to bring a fresh viewpoint to his work each day.

“I’m not treated as like a charity case or like I’m just here to check a box. I am part of the team,” he said. “I have this unique perspective.”

Reid said he’s gained a lot through this experience – perhaps, best of all, an offer to join the team full-time.

“This company values making its corporate workforce match the community that it serves,” Reid said. “There’s a lot more people with disabilities out there. This a major untapped talent pool, and they will give you great work, if you give them the tools and support they need.”

Visit the UnitedHealth Group careers site for more information.

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