Internships help those with disabilities gain work experience

A state program is helping people with disabilities pave their way to employment. 

Hands-On Educational Services helps match people of different levels of ability with paid internships, where they can gain the experience needed to land a job.

"Many of the students aren't going to college, for one reason or another," said program founder John Ficca. "They need to get some experience and some transferable skills that they can use in other employment."

The program helped Jaylan Frederique get an internship at the Bloomingdale Public Library in Brandon. 

"You get practice out of it like you learn from what you're doing," Jaylan said.

Earlier this year, Hillsborough County hired 15 students through the program for an 80-hour internship.  

"What particularly makes this program special, it allows us to partner with other agencies to help students who have unique abilities to be able to come in and get different types of experiences," explained Hillsborough County Human Resource Director Ivey Martin.

Students work in libraries, animal services, parks and recreation, fleet management, and the county building maintenance.

"It really helped me gain the confidence that I needed because, before I got into this job, I was very unconfident with myself," said Giorgio Bedoloa.

 After their internships, participants have a graduation ceremony to celebrate their achievements.