Reverse job fair connects St. Louisans with disabilities to employers
In the cafeteria at St. Louis Community College-Forest Park, they were serving up opportunities.
It was the 'Accommodation for Success' reverse job fair put on by Slate, the St. Louis Agency on training and employment.
"This is actually, as far as we know the largest reverse job fair ever held in the United States for people with disabilities," said Jim Sahaida with Slate.
Instead of employers having booths, job seekers do, which gives people like 29-year-old Tom Jenkins, who has cerebral palsy, a chance to sell his abilities.
"I have all the marketing skills you need but I'm also very good with people," he told us.
Jenkins is just one of more than 80 job seekers who all want to work and are qualified to work. And some can be pretty persuasive.
"Companies, especially brick and mortar. If you're going to be in competition and existence, you've got to really engage with social media marketing," explains an enthusiastic Sonya Yvette Jennings, who is fighting Lupus.
More than 70 different companies were represented including Ameren, Monsanto and the VA.
"There's just some fabulous people here that I've already met and I think they are going to find some avenues and opportunities today," explains Christine Jost, a recruiter with the St. Louis VA.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, less than 20 percent of people with a disability are employed and Jenkins thinks he knows why.
"I think it's the fear of the unknown," he told us.
The goal of this job fair is to strip away those fears.
"And we're hoping that people are hired today on the spot," said Sahaida.
As one employer said, participating was not just the right thing to do. It was the smart thing to do.
"I'm willing to learn, I'm ready to learn and I'm just waiting for the opportunity," Jenkins said.