In 2018, Tara Anne Pleat, a local attorney focusing on special needs law and a Board Member at AIM Services, sat down with Todd Shimkus, President of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, to discuss employment needs for those of diverse abilities. In her conversation Tara referenced the incredible support by the Chamber for employment for disabled veterans. How can we, she asked Todd, offer the same support to those living with development or intellectual disabilities or traumatic brain injuries? This conversation inspired Todd to assemble a group of people to discuss how they could improve job matching for individuals with disabilities seeking employment. During this meeting they would lay the groundwork for the Reverse Job Fair.
What is the Reverse Job Fair?
The Reverse Job Fair comes from the idea that many of the people we support may not be particularly comfortable with the traditional job fair of going from table to table and speaking to each employer. The Reverse Job Fair flips this normal setting and instead invites employers to travel from table to table and ask questions of the organizations and the individuals they support who are seeking employment.
In January of 2018 the first “testing” of the Reverse Job Fair was held at the Saratoga Hilton at the Saratoga Springs City Center. AIM Services, Saratoga Bridges, and Unlimited Potential were the first to participate, bringing with them 15 people looking for employment. 18 employers participated in the event, hiring three people as a result of this unique opportunity. Some employers who were not able to hire someone directly, did facilitate secondary connections that led to employment for those in attendance.
In May of 2018, the next Reverse Job Fair was again held at the Saratoga Hilton and attracted many more participants. In attendance were AIM Services, Living Resources, Saratoga County Employment & Training, Saratoga Bridges, Unlimited Potential, Inc., and WSWHE BOCES. Each organization was extremely pleased with the turnout and the opportunity presented to every individual wishing to participate.
Upon reflection of the success of the Reverse Job Fair, Todd Shimkus states, This is a great way to match up the needs of agencies looking to do placement and employers looking to fill jobs. It is a win win.
Partnerships & APSE National Conference
Strong partnerships between service organizations have arisen due to the development of the Reverse Job Fair. Organizations including AIM Services, Wildwood Programs, Liberty ARC, and Saratoga Bridges have collaborated in order to enhance employment opportunities for those they support. Each organization offers thoughtful and individualized supports to every unique individual seeking employment. Employment First is at the forefront for organizations offering employment services. Employment First means that employment in the workforce should be the first and preferred option for individuals with disabilities receiving assistance from publicly funded systems. Due to the Reverse Job Fair, a subcommittee of APSE (Association of People Supporting Employment First) formed in the Capital Region in order to focus on chamber education and outreach. The goal of this committee is to educate the business community on an untapped pool of potential employees.
In 2019, AIM Services’ request for proposal was accepted to speak at the National APSE (Association of People Supporting Employment First) Conference on June 18-20 in St. Louis, Missouri. Together with Wildwood and Liberty ARC, the organizations will expound upon the importance of chamber education and outreach. This is a proud and exciting opportunity for AIM to be a face of community education; an overarching goal of our organization.
AIM cannot wait to share information during and after the National APSE Conference in just a few short days. We hope to assist others in inspiring change in their communities so they can offer more for employment for those of diverse abilities.
AIM also looks forward to sharing information regarding the next Reverse Job. We anticipate the next fair to be held in the fall of 2019!