MBA Hopeful Works to Connect Disabled Grads, Employers at Virtual Job Fair

A 21-year-old business administration major at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego is helping to organize the first-ever virtual online job fair for disabled college students who are transitioning from school to work in the state of California.

Nicholas Corso, a varsity college basketball player and the project director at disABLEDperson, Inc., says the public charity’s mission is to help reduce the high unemployment rate among the disabled. However, the October 24 fair is not for the general disabled population. This job fair is for disabled college students transitioning form school to work in the state of California only.

“Their educational, racial, gender, and ethnic backgrounds are as diverse as the total student population of these schools. Their commonality is the fact that they all have a disability,” says Corso, who has plans to attend graduate school next year to earn his MBA.

He says he’s contacted the Disability Student Services of all the four-year colleges and universities in California. To date, he counts 44 California colleges and universities that have sent written confirmation, including most of the University of California System schools (i.e., UCLA, UC Berkeley); most of the California State University System schools (i.e., San Diego State, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo); Stanford University; University of Southern California; University of San Diego; and The Claremont Colleges.

Currently, Corso does not have an exact number of students who will participate. He explains that the disability student services departments of the respective schools are going to contact all of their registered disabled students. Through emails, the disability services departments will help promote the fair, suggest participating, and detail how to participate in the virtual job fair.

Companies Heading to the Fair

ERE recently chatted with Corso to learn more details about the fair, which employers have already expressed interest, and how other companies can participate in the event.

Who is helping to fund this job fair?

Corso: disABLEDperson, Inc. has had no special funding for this initiative. Our board decided that this was an initiative that we wanted to undertake so here we are today.

What employers do you already have lined up?

Corso: The first group of employers that we have targeted and have ‘lined up’ are the county and city governments in the state of California. Many but not all have agreed to participate. We are just starting to market our initiative to other employers within the state and those national employers who hire within the state. To date, those committed are Lockheed Martin, Cargill, Verizon, and HP. We believe this isn’t a bad start.

What is the fee for employers?

Corso: There is no fee for employers to participate in our fair. As a non-profit charity, we ask an employer who is going to participate to make a donation to our organization. The amount of the donation is strictly up to the employer. Making or not making a donation has no bearing on the employer’s ability to participate.

How will the fair operate for employers?

Corso: Our Web portal will be the host portal for the fair. Registered employers have until September 15 to send us the specific content that they want on their profile page. We will build the employer’s profile page with their respective content. Also on the page, should the employer wish, is a form where the student can paste their resume. When the student clicks the submit button, their resume will be emailed to the employer. Also, the employer can have for the day their own live chat room where one of their recruiters can talk live with students. Our web portal has the functionality to build as many live chat rooms as we want for whatever period of time that we want.

How will the fair operate for the students?

Corso: On October 24, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., the students will click on the Job Fair page [that lists] participating employers. The student clicks on the employer that they have an interest in, which takes them to the employer’s page [featuring] specific content. Should the student wish to pursue the employer further by submitting their resume, they can. Also, should the student wish to enter the chat room, they can do that also. Of note to employers is that we can limit the amount of students at any given time who enter the chat room.

What happens at the end of the day?

Corso: The only part of the fair that will expire at the end of the day will be the live chat rooms. We can leave the employer’s profile page with the submission form with active links for as long as the employer wishes. We will inform the students about this with our final notice about the fair.

So, what made you decide to produce this fair?

Corso: According to the 2006 U.S. Census, there are approximately 50 million college students in the United States; over 18.5% of those students are disabled. A huge number! Even more striking, the adjusted U.S. unemployment rate for August 2007 is approximately 4.6% while the unemployment rate of the 18.5% of those disabled college students is over 36%.

At our January board meeting, [we] decided that as an organization we wanted to make a concerted effort to attack the unemployment rate among those disabled individuals who are graduating from college. Through our fairs, we can make more of a difference in the facilitation of potential employees to employers.

In our experience, a key issue that prevents most of private industry and government agencies from actively recruiting individuals with disability is money. Simply, in today’s environment there are no recruiting dollars to go out and find individuals with disabilities. That also is true for disabled college students transitioning from school to work. Most employers do not have anything in their respective budgets to go out and recruit this demographic. With our fair, employers that want to actively seek out the disabled in this demographic to hire can do so with no cost involved, therefore eliminating the majority of the burden in hiring the disabled. Think about it, employers don’t even have to send a recruiter anywhere. The recruiter can attend the fair from the comfort of his/her own office at no cost. For them it doesn’t get better than that.

Elaine Rigoli has nearly 15 years of experience managing content and community for various B2B and consumer websites. Elaine has written thousands of business and technology articles and has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal and eWeek, among other publications.

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