By Kathy Eaton
Star Staff Reporter
For the past six years, Incight, a Portland-based non-profit that assists people with disabilities, has partnered with Oregon Vocational Rehabilitation Services (OVRS) to sponsor job fairs that match employers with job seekers who have disabilities.
This year’s event, Tapping Fresh Talent/Career Inclusion Expo, will take place April 11, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Oregon Convention Center, 777 N.E. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.
The job fair will feature dozens of employers, including the U.S. Forest Service, NW Natural, Legacy Health, City of Portland and Fred Meyer. The fair will include break-out sessions before the 10 a.m. start time, to prepare job seekers and inform employers. Topics of the sessions will include: Networking 101, Self-Empowerment, and Entrepreneurship. Resume reviews will be available on an individual basis from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
According to Incight employment program coordinator Tiana Tozer, “The biggest barrier to employment is not the stairs or inaccessible bathrooms. It’s the attitudes of those with disabilities and other people.”
A 2010 U.S. Census Bureau survey showed that almost one in five residents of the United States has a disability. That equates to 56.7 million or 19 percent of the population.
Incight envisions a world in which people with disabilities are fully engaged and contributing their maximum potential to their communities. The organization’s goals are to increase the employment rate of people with disabilities by 40 percent and the college attendance of those people by 20 percent, so that disabled individuals will be performing at the same level as people without disabilities.
It’s a tall order, given that the unemployment rate among job seekers with disabilities is double that of able-bodied applicants; approximately 16 percent compared with a national average of 8 percent. Incight is working to solve the high unemployment problem with its multi-platform approach: education, employment, independent living and networking.
“Incight is an open door, and it’s up to each individual to take advantage of opportunities,” said Incight director of community outreach Scott Hatley, who co-founded Incight with Vail Horton in 2004.
In addition to the annual job expo, Incight offers employment programs throughout the year to assist job seekers with disabilities. Incight partners with OVRS to host business events (called Meet Business) to provide job seekers with a venue in which they can learn about a specific industry, discover the types of positions within that industry and network with employers
In May 2012, the United States Forest Service (USFS) Region 6 partnered with Incight to host Meet Business: Exploring Careers in Natural Resources. That event drew 120 job seekers, who networked with representatives from eight federal agencies showcasing a variety of careers such as archeology, wild land fire, range conservation, civil engineering, fisheries, and wildlife biology and recreation.
According to retired USFS regional forester Linda Goodman, “Incight has provided the Forest Service with diverse well-qualified applicants to fill a variety of vacancies.”
Nita Wornom, a disability program employment manager with Forest Service Region 6, said that in the past two years, 15 percent of 200 permanent full-time Forest Service Region 6 positions were filled with candidates referred from Incight-sponosored events. Wornom credits both Incight and OVRS with providing well qualified applicants for a variety of positions in Oregon and Washington.
“Having more people with disabilities in the workforce is eye-opening to hiring officials; and by providing education and awareness, shows what people can do,” Wornom said.
Live Resume is another employment event offered by Incight. Through it, selected job seekers with disabilities receive feedback on their resume, practice interviewing skills and network with human-resource professionals representing local businesses.
Barb Chapman became disabled when she lost her eyesight due to diabetic retinopathy. After she recovered from surgery, she sought to reenter the workforce by contacting Incight.
“Competition is tough when there are 200 applicants for every job opening,” Chapman said. She was selected to participate in a Live Resume event in April 2012 and, as a result, received two job offers, one with Multnomah County and the other with Legacy Health. Both positions were temporary in nature and have since ended, so Chapman is once again seeking permanent employment. About Live Resume, she says, “You’re more than a piece of paper when employers meet you in this venue; and you can highlight your skills and experience.”
If you go:
What: Tapping Fresh Talent/Career Inclusion Expo
When: April 11
Time: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Cost: Free to job seekers
Where: Oregon Convention Center, 777 N.E. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.
For more information: tappingfreshtalent.org or (971) 244-0305