Hawaii Hosts “Reverse” Job Fair for People with Disabilities

State legislators and government agencies from Hawaii hosted an "Empowering All Abilities" Job Fair for persons with developmental disabilities on Oct. 30 at the Hawaii Capitol. During the fair, each job seeker had a table set up with a presentation board that showcased their interests, strengths and abilities. Prospective employers visited each job seeker's booth. The idea came from Hawaii state Reps. John Mizuno and Lynn DeCoite, who wanted to create an environment where employers had the responsibility of appealing to potential employees – a “reverse” job fair. 

Over 100 employers and HR professionals were in attendance, all vying for the attention of 50 job seekers.  First Lady Dawn Amano-Ige provided welcoming remarks.  The legislative host community included Sens. Josh Green, Rosalyn H. Baker, Mike Gabbard and Russell E. Ruderman, and Reps. Lynn DeCoite, Della Au Belatti, Beth Fukumoto, Joy San Buenaventura, Lauren Matsumoto and John Mizuno.  Agencies such as the state departments of Labor, Human Services and Health also hosted the event. 

“Our actions speak louder than our words. This is a first step in the right direction to creating equal opportunity for individuals with developmental disabilities,” said DeCoite. “The support from everyone, the many companies big and small, have given hope for us all to have opportunities. This is commitment and movement in the right direction.”

Mizuno also talked to CSG about the impetus for the reverse job fair, saying “In order to move our state in the right direction, we as a people must work together with government, businesses, our disabled, their families, and advocates for our disabled to ensure people with disabilities are able to significantly enhance our state's workforce.”

When employers give these willing workers a chance, some of the myths about hiring people with disability will be dismissed.  According to the U.S. Department of Education, the narrative surrounding disabled workers is consistently proven false by the research.  Accommodations are relatively inexpensive, lawsuits are rare, and they do not use more sick leave or health care, yet disabled workers are more likely to hold only part-time employment, either because their hours were cut back or they were unable to find full-time work.

“When we create a workforce that values the abilities of our people with disabilities, we confirm our commitment to a strong workforce that allows its diversity to define us as a society that supports equal access to all,” Mizuno said. 

State leaders who wish to prioritize disability employment are invited to attend CSG's Stay-at-Work/Return-to-Work Toolkit launch at the CSG National Conference on Dec. 6 in Northern Kentucky-Greater Cincinnati.  The event will highlight CSG’s newest disability employment publication on stay-at-work/return-to-work state policy, cover innovative state practices on hiring and retaining workers with disabilities, and talk about how the state can be a model employer, engage and support the business community, and promote the best practices on providing employment supports for people with disabilities. Register for the National Conference here.