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New Grant to Increase Employment Outcomes for Youth With Disabilities

February 18, 2020, 8:10 AM HST
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Turn the Tables participants at the reverse job fair. PC: UH-Mānoa

A new grant awarded to to University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa College of Education will support a project aimed at increasing employment outcomes for youth with disabilities and breaking down employment barriers.

The $50,000 grant by Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation will provide funding over the next two years to support the project, Turn the Tables, a Center on Disability Studies (CDS).

“In Hawai‘i, people with disabilities are unemployed at twice the rate of the general population, and there are limited services to assist youth with disabilities to develop leadership and employment skills,” CDS Project Director Chin Lee explained. “Turn the Tables offers an alternative approach to the typical job fair.”

Using a reverse job fair model, Turn the Tables shines the spotlight on the job candidates with disabilities, rather than the usual job fair where the employer receives inquiries and applications. Job candidates set up tables with their personal skills, abilities, accomplishments and strengths on poster display. Potential employers are able to meet and spend time with the candidates who are, in turn, able to interview their potential employers.

The objectives of the project include: to improve employment opportunities of the participating youth with disabilities, to stimulate changes in attitudes and practices of employers toward youth with disabilities and to disseminate and replicate the reverse job fair concept at national conferences. The project anticipates serving more than 200 candidates and nearly 400 employers over two years.

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The Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation grant will enable CDS to implement and expand the reverse job fair concept in the state of Hawai‘i and nationally. Annually, CDS will organize a reverse job fair on Honolulu, Hawai‘i Island, Kaua‘i and Maui.

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Building on the success of two reverse job fairs held at the State Capitol in the fall of 2018 and 2019, CDS will partner with American Job Centers, Developmental Disabilities Division, Hawai‘i Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and Disability:IN Hawai‘i.

“CDS led the first reverse job fair in Hawai‘i with assistance from our partners as well as the Office of the Governor, State Council on Developmental Disabilities, and other state agencies and key legislators,” Lee said. “We are so grateful to the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation for allowing us to continue to grow this very essential and amazing program.”

“Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation’s vision is to empower youth with disabilities to lead productive lives,” said the foundation’s Sr. Director Kevin R. Webb. “By investing in innovative strategies, like the CDS Turn the Tables project, the foundation seeks to identify effective models that can be replicated to give an opportunity for youth with disabilities in Hawai’i and beyond to connect with employers and secure a fulfilling job.”

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The CDS mission is to promote diverse abilities across the lifespan through interdisciplinary training, research, and service. CDS was established in 1988, and is a member of Association of University Centers on Disability, a national network of university disability research centers that focus on the quality of life of persons with disabilities in each state.

The Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation, based in the Washington, DC area, was established in 1991 by Mitsubishi Electric Corporation and the Mitsubishi Electric U.S. companies, which produce, sell, and distribute a wide range of consumer, industrial, commercial, and professional electronics products. The Foundation has contributed more than $18 million to organizations that are empowering young people with disabilities to lead more inclusive and productive lives.

To learn more, visit www.MEAF.org.

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