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Texas students with disabilities gain workforce training through summer internship

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Freda Ross

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(Texas News Service) Teens and young adults in Texas who have disabilities have an opportunity to get a paid internship this summer.

The Texas Workforce Commission offers its Summer Earn and Learn program for students between the ages of 14 and 22. The students are placed with large and small businesses to earn a paycheck and learn valuable work experience.

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Joe Esparza, the commissioner representing employers, said all 28 workforce development boards across the state participate in recruiting students and employers

"The employers are obviously benefiting because they're investing in their communities, and they get somebody who's motivated to work," Esparza explained. "I think having that opportunity gives these students a chance to interact with customers, to learn IT systems, to just engage in something that they are very interested in."

He said more than 14,000 students have been placed in internships since the program started in 2017.

More than 1,300 employers across Texas participated in the program last year, giving students hands-on experience. Some of the businesses include the Amarillo Zoo, the Fort Worth Botanic Garden and Odessa College. Esparza noted the internships last five to eight weeks and student participants attend work readiness training to prepare them for their work experiences.

"We at the state level always encourage employers to get involved and create programs," Esparza emphasized. "In most every business, there's usually an opportunity to bring somebody in as an internship and it's a great opportunity for them to learn new skills and become part of the workforce there."

Some of the students have been hired full-time by the companies at the end of their internships.