Access to Success: A Guide for Employers

The Federal Government’s STARR (Science and Technology Abilities Recruitment and Retention) Initiative and Hiring within the Federal Public Service

STARR (Science and Technology Abilities Recruitment and Retention) is an innovative partnership among eight science-based departments and agencies to recruit and retain persons with disabilities into scientific and technical positions with the Federal Public Service. STARR was created to bring the representation of persons with disabilities to a fair and equitable level across departments and agencies through the active recruitment of students and new graduates. This initiative includes visible minority persons with disabilities, aboriginal persons with disabilities and women with disabilities.

The program is offered through the following departments and agencies:

  • Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada:
  • Canadian Space Agency:
  • Environment Canada:
  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada:
  • Health Canada:
  • National Defence: or
  • Natural Resources Canada:
  • National Research Council:

The purpose of STARR is to provide a number of students with disabilities who are enrolled in science and technology programs at universities and colleges across Canada with job training through participation in various work experience programs offered by the partnering departments and agencies. It also supports the establishment of methods to encourage career development of persons with disabilities within the partnering departments and agencies. In order to be considered to participate in the program, an applicant must be a Canadian citizen, eligible to work for the Federal Government, self-identify as a person with a disability and be studying or have graduated in the field of science and technology, or, have relevant experience in science or technology fields. Students who are returning to full-time studies in the fall can apply through the Federal Student Work Experience Program. Graduates can apply through the Post-Secondary Recruitment program. Information on both of these programs is available at:

The program was developed because the Federal science and technology departments and agencies recognized people with disabilities as a “community at risk” not sufficiently represented in government jobs. There is a substantial gap between the government’s stated commitment to be more inclusive, especially in the share of positions held by persons with disabilities and the number actually employed. The Science and Technology Ability Recruitment and Retention (STARR) Initiative supports the government’s strategies to achieve a more representative, inclusive workforce and to project the Public Service as an employer of choice, while addressing the future, specific science and technology needs of each partnering department and agency.

The STARR program complements two other federal employment initiatives: Co-operative Education Programs (Co-op) and the Federal Student Work Experience Program (FSWEP). There are 5,000 Co-op students hired from 150 universities and colleges across Canada, with the Public Service as the largest employer of Co-op students in the country. Applicants to this program must be pursuing full-time studies as defined by post-secondary institutions and registered in a co-operative education/internship program recognized by the Public Service Commission. Four month work terms begin in January, May or September. At the end of each Co-op placement, a written evaluation of the student’s performance is submitted to the educational institution for approval of credits. The FSWEP receives applications from 90,000 students nation-wide and about 10,000 are hired to work in the public service for the summer. To be eligible for FSWEP, applicants must be recognized as full-time in an accredited academic institution (part-time students with a disability are eligible to apply) and returning to full-time studies in the next academic term.

A Co-op student can return for another Co-op/Internship work term in the same or similar position within the Department if she/he has previously worked under the Co-operative Education/ Internship Program. If all parties agree (manager, student and educational institution), Co-op students can do back to back work terms, which are two consecutive Co-op work terms of four months each. FSWEP students can be re-employed for another work term in the same or a similar position within the Department if they have worked the previous year under the Program. Co-op students can be re-employed under FSWEP.

The Federal government’s Post-Secondary Recruitment Program (PSR) is a national initiative aimed at recruiting post-secondary graduates to fill entry-level positions in the Public Service. PSR is an excellent source of candidates for managers wishing to renew and rejuvenate the federal workforce and to meet Employment Equity objectives. There is an inventory of post-secondary graduates, which provides immediate access to qualified applicants. Jobs can be posted on the PSR Web site at any time during the year at:

(This article was prepared from text on the STARR Web site: and notes from a presentation by Mario D’Arcy, National Recruitment Director, Health Canada at the NEADS Student Leadership and Employment Forum in Vancouver on March 14, 2003.)