Job fair offers opportunities to Valley residents with disabilities | News | dailyitem.com

2022-06-16 03:24:31 By : Ms. Zhuri Cheng

Cloudy skies this evening followed by thunderstorms late. Low 66F. Winds SSE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 90%..

Cloudy skies this evening followed by thunderstorms late. Low 66F. Winds SSE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 90%.

Judy Earnest, left, and her son Cameron Earnest along with Cameron’s job coach Terry McLenegan talk with potential employers at Thursday’s Career Fair for Individuals with Disabilities at the Susquehana Valley Mall.

ARC Executive Director Tessa Moore and ARC Director of Self Advocates Brian Habermehl talk at a Career Fair for Individuals with Disabilities at the Susquehanna Valley Mall on Thursday.

Mason Mengel, Mount Carmel, was at Thursdays Career Fair for Individuals with Disabilities at the Susquehanna Valley Mall looking for a job.

Judy Earnest, left, and her son Cameron Earnest along with Cameron’s job coach Terry McLenegan talk with potential employers at Thursday’s Career Fair for Individuals with Disabilities at the Susquehana Valley Mall.

ARC Executive Director Tessa Moore and ARC Director of Self Advocates Brian Habermehl talk at a Career Fair for Individuals with Disabilities at the Susquehanna Valley Mall on Thursday.

Mason Mengel, Mount Carmel, was at Thursdays Career Fair for Individuals with Disabilities at the Susquehanna Valley Mall looking for a job.

SELINSGROVE — Mason Mengel is looking for a paying job where he can build things and Cameron Earnest touts his organizing skills.

Both young men were among the many who showed up at Thursday’s Special Needs Fair at the Susquehanna Valley Mall held by CareerLink at the suggestion of state Rep. Lynda Schlegel Culver.

It’s the organization’s first job fair focused on job-seekers with intellectual and developmental disabilities, said CareerLink business consultant Zach Stotter.

“Attendance is better than a traditional job fair. We had more than 50 people show up in the first hour,” he said. “It tells me they’re eager to work.”

The job fair was spurred by recent state data that revealed only 13 percent of Pennsylvanians with intellectual or developmental disabilities are employed and more than 70 percent of them want to work, said Tessa Moore, executive director of The ARC Susquehanna Valley, which provides services and support to people with disabilities.

“We hope it makes good matches for the people who want to work and the companies struggling to fill positions,” Culver said.

Mengel, 18, of Mount Carmel, and Earnest, 20, of Middleburg, want to get into the workforce.

“Building houses,” is Mengel’s job aspiration, along with attending college

“His goal is to live on his own and be independent,” said his grandmother, Louise Gudonis, of Mount Carmel.

“I want to get out and about,” said Earnest, adding he’d also like to make some money.

His mother, Judy Earnest, said it’s been a struggle for her son, who has autism, to find a job on his own.

“We’ve filled out a lot of job applications but a lot of people don’t want to give people with special needs a chance. This is promising,” she said.

About a dozen employers were at the fair, willing to hire people with varying degrees of ability.

Stotter said two meetings were held with potential employers — including Amazon, Weis Markets, Custom Container Solutions and several local banks — prior to the job fair to educate them on how to meet the needs of an employee with special needs.

“This is an opportunity to break down old stigmas and barriers,” said Moore.

Brian Habermehl sent out more than 100 job applications without success after graduating college in 2006.

The Northumberland man, who has cerebral palsy, eventually found employment at The ARC where he currently serves as director of self advocates, helping others with disabilities gain a voice and independence.

“Everyone has a purpose and value,” said Habermehl. “We want to work.”

Finding the “right fit” of employee and employer is key in making the relationship work, he said.

T-Ross Brothers Construction human services Director Sandra Berry said the company doesn’t currently employ anyone with an intellectual or developmental disability, but they are open to giving all an opportunity.

“We are willing to bring on people who are willing to be taught and willing to learn,” she said. “We are growing exponentially and taking on more work so we need more help.”

Conagra human resources specialists Krista Quintrell and Evelina Maidens are looking to fill vacancies on all three shifts at the Milton company.

“There are people with disabilities who want to work,” said Quintrell, adding that many of the job-seekers they met Thursday had issues with transportation.

“We’d like to see the (Rabbittransit) Stop Hopper program expanded,” said Maidens, talking about the new $2 per ride program now being offered in the Valley.

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