November 20, 2017
Anderson University is committed to preparing all of its students for the workplace.
That’s why AU recently held its first Disability Employment Awareness Fair, where dozens of its nearly 200 disabled students learned about their employment options and discovered ways the university is breaking down barriers.
Held at the Student Center’s Banquet Hall, the fair was open to students, faculty and staff to give insight into some of the potential jobs and careers available to those with disabilities.
“It’s not a job fair but an event to help show people the employment opportunities out there for people with disabilities,” said Dianne King, Dean of Student Success at AU. “Nationally, 11 percent of the 2.5 million college students in the country have some sort of disability. Here at Anderson University, it is between five and six percent.”
That equates to about 170 students, said Jim Fereira, AU’s Vice President of Student Development.
“Today is really about letting the entire Anderson University community be aware of the possibility of hiring people with disabilities,” Fereira said.
King estimated that more than 100 students attended the fair, which some professors incorporated into their curriculum. For example, King said a special education professor assigned the awareness fair to her students so that they could see what kinds of employment options awaited special education students they may teach.
Representatives from Anderson County Special Needs and Disabilities Board; Project Search; the Developmental Center for Exceptional Children; the SC Department of Social Services; Family Connection; Habitat for Humanity; Michelin; Special Olympics Area 14; The People’s Bank; SC Vocational Rehab; and Walgreens were there to discuss opportunities for people with disabilities within their organizations.
Janet Krupka, Director of Recruiting for Michelin, told attendees about her company’s sign language program. The program brings together different departments within the plant to learn sign language, not only to increase their own understanding of a new language but to help accommodate deaf and hearing-impaired future employees.
Jeff Kowalk, of Michelin North America, said inclusion was a key factor driving business growth.
“It’s important for people with disabilities to know that they are welcome here and that we will ensure that they have the tools they need to succeed,” he said.
The event was the first of its kind at the school, but organizers hope that it will not be the last. Coinciding with National Disabilities Employment Awareness Month through the US Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, organizers are planning an even bigger event next year.
Disabled Americans are the largest underemployed segment of the American population. According to US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 17.6 percent of people with a disability are employed, compared to 64 percent of those without a disability. And of those disabled workers, more than 34 percent were employed part-time, compared to 19 percent of those without disabilities.