Center for Excellence & Advocacy Connect2Careers™
On Friday August 8th, 86 individuals with disabilities from across the state of Rhode Island and 35 businesses gathered at Chelo’s Restaurant in Warwick RI for Connect2Careers™, one of Fedcap’s signature programs for helping individuals develop the networking skills and professional contacts they need to build their careers.
The event was hosted by Fedcap’s Center for Excellence and Advocacy (CEA), envisioned by Rhode Island’s Division of Behavioral Health Care, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH) to change the lives of people with developmental/intellectual disabilities through integrated employment opportunities.
“Connect2Careers™ engages businesses, the provider community and participants in an energetic and positive discussion about the many career opportunities that exist,” said Lorrie Lutz, Fedcap Chief Strategy Officer. “Sometimes people simply do not know the kinds of career options that exist. This event was part of the CEA’s ongoing efforts to ensure that everyone in Rhode Island who wants to work has a job and is prepared to be successful. We are extremely grateful for the support of BHDDH, businesses, and our community partners for making this event so successful. ”
In a speed dating like atmosphere, participants were given seven minutes to talk to representatives from a variety of businesses. During that time the participants introduce themselves, present resumes and business cards, and ask and answer questions. At the end of seven minutes a whistle sounds, and they went on to another table.
Several participants made connections that may lead to jobs! Brian Grossguth, Safety Manager for Blount Fine Foods, a foodservice company, met a young man who presented him with a resume and business card, and was extremely polite. The young man maintained eye contact throughout the meeting and went out of his way to thank Brian at the event’s conclusion. “He asked all of the right questions, and was very poised,” Brian said. “He was very impressive and if there is any way possible, I would like to find a way to hire him.”
At the hairdressing table, Lori Esposito, from local business Shear Dimensions, explained that a year of schooling and licensure is required to work as a stylist in a salon. She told interested participants that there are opportunities to work in a salon environment – cleaning up or greeting customers – prior to earning a license.
The room was abuzz with energy and enthusiasm as whistles sounded and participants changed tables. Three individuals at the foodservice table asked questions about the industry, and were encouraged to network with all of their contacts, including family and friends. Professionals from the hospitality industry answered questions about housekeeping duties. Participants interested in janitorial/custodial services asked about the types of facilities they could work in and how long it takes to find a job.
“Three years ago we would not have believed that we would see a day like today,” BHDDH Director Craig Stenning said in opening remarks. “Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and dignity, and to have a job that honors and awards their full potential.”
A representative from Walgreen asked participants about previous work experience, if they had ever operated a cash register and what they liked to do outside of work. A business owner with a family-owned dry cleaning business explained that dry cleaning isn’t complicated but requires attention to detail. He said that the priority is listening to customers.
Robert Paquette, Chief of the Parks and Recreation Division of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, described a variety of seasonal positions that are available between April and November, such as groundskeeper, clerk and attendant. Up to 20 positions are generally open to people with a wide range of functionality.
Holly Shurick, represented TJX, a business that has been a strong partner with Fedcap, hiring dozens of individuals with barriers in their many stores. During the event, TJX was presented with Fedcap’s Workstar™ Award, a designation for businesses that demonstrate leadership in hiring people with barriers. TJX joins other distinguished WorkStar™ recipients including Restaurant Associates, ISS, CASO, Inc., Rhode Island Turnpike Authority, Ocean Janitorial Supply, Inc. and Gregg’s Restaurants.
At the end of the program, when participants were asked what they had learned, their answers indicated that they had indeed been fully engaged. They learned that eye contact is important; it’s OK to make mistakes; be prepared to answer questions about yourself; be truthful and honest; trust one another; make customers feel welcome, dress to impress, don’t be nervous; have a positive attitude, and be courteous and caring.
It was truly a remarkable event.