Air Force Safety Center Student Employee Earns National Recognition

  • Published
  • By Darlene Y. Cowsert
  • Air Force Safety Center
A summer student hire at Headquarters Air Force Safety Center received the 2011 Judith C. Gilliom Outstanding Workforce Recruitment Program for College Students with Disabilities Award during ceremonies held recently in Washington, D.C.

Michael Nakai, an information specialist, was one of only five award recipients selected from more than 400 students nationwide.

Nakai learned about the recruitment program through Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, where he is majoring in criminal justice with an emphasis on computer forensics. Following a competitive selection process at the Department of Labor, which co-sponsors the program with the Department of Defense, his resume was forwarded to the safety center for consideration as a summer hire.

"The selection process here was very difficult," said Gerry Gajeton, chief of the Information Technology Branch where Nakai was assigned. "We wanted to make sure we had someone with the capabilities we needed and Michael proved on day one that he was a perfect fit."

The goal of the Workforce Recruitment Program is to increase the representation of people with disabilities in the federal workforce. Candidates are rated on criteria including communication skills, maturity and professional goals. According to the DOL website, the program has been successfully placing students with disabilities in summer and permanent positions in the public and private sectors for more than 15 years.

"The WRP is an extremely valuable program," said Lori Berry, chief of the Personnel and Resources Division. "Michael came in at a time when our IT manning was low and he provided relief for the growing workload. The program gives students with disabilities a great opportunity to gain experience to work for another agency or to possibly return as a full-time employee. All this comes at no cost to the school, the student or the employer."

"This internship has given me a lot of good experience and opportunities," Nakai said. "Skills learned from my previous jobs in information technology were useful to me at the safety center, and this internship has allowed me to keep those skills fresh and learn new ones while I'm still in school."

He expects to graduate in a couple of years and aspires to work full time for a government agency.

"We are very pleased to see Mike recognized for his talents and professionalism," said Jay Johnson, chief of the Analysis and Integration Division. "He has truly excelled in finding solutions to some of our challenging IT issues."