Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

All aboard Job Fairs: A Joint Endeavor of the Public and Private Sectors

Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

All aboard Job Fairs: A Joint Endeavor of the Public and Private Sectors

Article excerpt

All Aboard Job Fairs: A Joint Endeavor of the Public and Private Sectors

The '90s present an opportunity for the public and private sectors to cooperate more fully in promoting the employment of people with disabilities and senior citizens. Two recent developments support this assertion. First, although having a delayed impact because of slow economic growth, a labor shortage due to a decreasing number of young workers entering the job market is expected to impede economic productivity (McCarthy, 1990). Second, employers must be doubly aware of the need for nondiscriminatory hiring now that people with disabilities have broader protections under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (Feldblum, 1991).

Historically, the combined efforts of the public and private sectors have fallen short of meeting the challenge of employment of nontraditional groups. In a recent survey (Louis Harris & Associates, 1986), researchers concluded that "not working" is the "truest definition" of what it means to be disabled in American society. Sixty-six percent of a random sample of adults with disabilities were unemployed, and only 10% were working full-time. The majority of unemployed people with disabilities questioned in the survey expressed a strong desire to work.

Several solutions to the unemployment problem faced by people with disabilities and senior citizens have been suggested. Gray and Braddy (1988) stressed the need for job placement models that empower individuals to seek their own jobs. Managers in American businesses (Louis Harris & Associates, 1987) have called for more joint ventures between the public and private sectors in recruiting and training people from groups further back in the labor queue. EEO officers in major corporations involved in hiring people with disabilities seconded the recommendation made by managers and supervisors. They stated that most of the people with disabilities who they interviewed came at their own initiative or at the suggestion of a friend or family member. According to the Louis Harris and Associates report (1987, p. 40), "The message to public and private rehabilitation agencies is to do a far better job of introducing qualified disabled clients to prospective employers."

Research has demonstrated that the job fair is an effective method for linking qualified applicants with interested employers (Koch, 1989; Brown & Roessler, 1991).Job fairs have many other virtues as well. The job fair format is consistent with an empowerment approach to employment (Gray & Braddy, 1988); the person with a disability or the older individual must make the effort to attend the fair and present himself or herself in a positive manner to employers.

Cost effectiveness is another virtue of job fairs. Recent research with 600 different companies documented that the cost of recruitment increased by 70% in a two-year time period from 1986 to 1988 (Grossman & Magnus, 1989). In response to rising expenses, many companies in the survey (48%) implemented job fairs as a major feature of their recruitment programs. Industries that have used the job fair concept include insurance, hospitality, data processing, publishing, telecommunications, high technology, and retailing. Participating employers stressed that the job fair is an efficient and economical means for bringing diverse segments of the labor market together with representatives of business and industry (Aschkenasy, 1985; Osborne, 1988).

The job fair is also an excellent opportunity for private sector employers to learn about the placement services of public sector programs that promote the employment of specific groups such as older workers and people with disabilities (Glickstein & Ramer, 1988). In that regard, Brown and Roessler (1991) described the benefits of the Better Days job fairs, an alliance between Days Inn of America and representatives from the state rehabilitation agency, the state office on aging, and a university-based rehabilitation research center. …

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