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Turn the Tables participants at the reverse job fair.

The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa College of Education was awarded a $50,000 grant by the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation. Over the next two years, funding will support Turn the Tables, a Center on Disability Studies (CDS) project aimed at increasing employment outcomes for youth with disabilities and breaking down employment barriers.

“In Hawaiʻi, 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.

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

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, Hawaiʻi Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and Disability:IN Hawaiʻi.

CDS led the first reverse job fair in Hawaiʻi 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.”

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