Reverse Job Fair Turns Tables For Job Seekers With Disabilities

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Building a diverse workforce was made easier for area businesses through their participation in the Third Annual Accommodation for Success Disability Employment Event, held on Thursday, August 10, 2017, at the Forest Park Campus of St. Louis Community College.

This innovative recruitment event puts job candidates in the booth space to showcase their talents and experience to the 116 human resource professionals from 99 area companies. Job candidates represented a variety of industries, including IT and Computer Science, Sales and Marketing, Customer Services, Finance and Accounting, Healthcare, Education and many others. The 74 job candidates were sponsored by 26 area agencies, including 29 Starkloff-trained candidates. This event was not only the first reverse job fair in the St. Louis area, but the largest reverse job fair in the nation.

“Unlike a normal job fair where employers set up booths and job seekers visit, the job seekers set up booths and employers visit,” explains Susan Menhard, Starkloff Career Academy Program Director. “It allows candidates to prepare and puts them in a position of power. It really turns the tables for them.”

In the weeks leading up to the reverse job fair, SDI staff held boot camp style trainings to prepare job candidates for this big event. Candidates learned the best practices of resume writing, networking and interviewing, as well as how to showcase themselves while in their booth during the event.

“I thought the Reverse Job Fair went great!” attendee Shawn Makepeace said. “I heard about a new company’s research and they seemed to be really interested in what I’m doing,” she explained.

Shawn has a Ph.D. in Communication Sciences and Disorders from the University of Cincinnati, and a Masters in Animal Sciences from the University of Connecticut. She is passionate about animals and is an accomplished equestrian. Shawn is blind. She is seeking positions in research design, grant and scientific writing, and laboratory sciences with an emphasis on animal science.

“The Reverse Job Fair has been a great way to get out and network,” Shawn concludes. A win-win situation for all involved.

The Third Annual Accommodation for Success event is a collaborative effort between more than 20 of the region’s disability employment organizations. Workshops and resources on disability inclusion, etiquette, recruitment and workplace culture were offered to registered businesses earlier in the day, prior to the reverse job fair.

Colleen Starkloff conducted a workshop on disability hiring. St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson was the keynote speaker, greeting attendees at the opening of the day.

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