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All aboard for employment.

Thanks to funding from the Dole Foundation and staffing from the Department of Rehabilitation at the University of Arkansas, the call "All Aboard" was frequently heard throughout Arkansas and Kansas in 1991. In this case, "All Aboard" did not refer to a new AMTRAK service from Little Rock to Kansas City but to a new job fair project called All Aboard. Many people got on board to make All Aboard a success--employers, community leaders, businesses such as Wal-Mart, the Chamber of Commerce, and representatives from the Arkansas and Kansas Divisions of Rehabilitation Services.

All Aboard Job Fairs were conducted throughout the two-state region to bring together people with disabilities and senior citizens who were looking for work with employers who were seeking good employees. From April to October, 1991, eight All Aboard Job Fairs were held--six in Arkansas and two in Kansas. In addition to a number of job placements, the project produced some excellent materials to enable job fair sponsors in other locales to repeat the successful All Aboard experience.

Some Background Information

The All Aboard Job Fair originated with a pilot study conducted by the University of Arkansas Rehabilitation Department as part of the Senior Power Job Fair hosted by Days Inn of America. Known as Better Days, the precursors to the All Aboard Job Fairs expanded the senior citizen recruiting emphasis of Days Inn to include people with disabilities. The name Senior Power was changed to Better Days to reflect not only the expanded scope of the project but also an important advertising initiative of the Days Inn corporation.

The success of Better Days encouraged the Department of Rehabilitation to continue the job fair effort and to seek support from the Dole Foundation in Washington, DC. In its grant application to the Dole Foundation, the Department proposed not only to conduct eight job fairs in one year's time but also to produce a planning guide and promotional materials so that others could easily implement All Aboard in their communities.

All Aboard PromotiOnal Materials

All Aboard promotional materials are available free of charge from the Department of Rehabilitation. The All Aboard Planning Guide contains a stepby-step strategy for hosting a job fair. The printed guide presents a 10-week strategy that culminates with the job fair. A calendar of events outlines the 10-week sequence of activities with each week's steps described in detail in individual sections of the guide. Sample letters are provided for soliciting the participation of employers, resource agencies, people with disabilities, and senior citizens.

Portraying the All Aboard experience in words and images, an All Aboard promotional videotape is available for prospective sponsors. Written and narrated by a professional journalist, the videotape explains what an All Aboard Job Fair is, how to conduct the job fair, and what the results will be. People with disabilities, employers, and resource agency personnel who attended the job fairs provided some convincing footage of the benefits of sponsoring an All Aboard Job Fair.

Potential All Aboard Sponsors

Local businesses, local Chambers of Commerce, and other community groups have successfully implemented the All Aboard planning steps. Excellent support along the way is available to community sponsors from groups such as the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and the Area Agency on Aging. Personnel from resource agencies can assist both with the preplanning and with activities during the fair itself. They can also (a) suggest employers and other resource people to participate and (b) communicate information to prospective job seekers whom they represent. An All Aboard steering committee composed of interested employers and resources is also recommended.

The Impact of All Aboard

With a budget of $400 per site from the Dole Foundation, eight towns got on board through special help from local Chambers of Commerce in seven of the communities and a local WalMart store in another community. The participating locations and primary sponsors were the Chambers of Commerce of Conway, Russellville, and Heber Springs, Arkansas, and those of Great Bend and Augusta, Kansas; a Wal-Mart store in Fayetteville, Arkansas; the Chamber of Commerce and Hot Springs Rehabilitation Center, Hot Springs, Arkansas; and the Chamber of Commerce and Noncommissioned Officers Association of Jacksonville, Arkansas. Project Success, an employment program for people receiving public assistance, cosponsored the Russellville and Heber Springs job fairs.

The impact of the All Aboard Job Fairs was determined by analyzing data collected at the eight job fair sites. Applicant data forms included a confidential registration card, a brief education and work history resume, and an exit interview. Employers maintained a list of all people interviewed and completed a survey at the end of the fair. On the exit survey, they indicated the size and nature of their company, their hiring needs and recruiting methods, and their overall evaluation of the All Aboard Job Fair. Resource agencies completed an evaluation form at the job fair. Approximately 12 weeks after each fair, project staff conducted followup activities with employers and a random sample of participants.

Participants

Four hundred and seventy-six people attended the eight job fairs--313 people with disabilities and 163 senior citizens. All Aboard staff at the University viewed three of the job fairs as unqualified successes--over 80 people attended each one, and a variety of employers and resource agencies were represented. Four other job fairs were well attended (18 to 49 people at each one), and one job fair in a small community with a depressed local economy was very poorly attended. In an exit interview conducted on a random basis, participants rated all of the job fairs positively (3.9 on a 5-point scale).

Most of the people attending the job fairs were unemployed or retired but seeking work. Participants had been 'looking for work for at least a month, and 57 percent of the people with disabilities indicated that they had been in the job market

for 6 months or more. People with disabilities and senior citizens reported that they relied on the following techniques to find jobs: reading the want ads, seeking help from family and friends, using the state job service, and making cold calls on businesses.

Rating the job fairs positively, 126 employers representing businesses ranging in size from 2 to 9,000 employees attended the eight fairs. They typically interviewed for unskilled or skilled positions in industries such as retail sales, direct sales and telemarketing, healthcare and medical services, hospitality, banking and finance, and grocery.

All Aboard made a big difference for 73 people--44 people with disabilities and 29 senior citizens--who were successful in finding jobs in the competitive labor market in positions ranging from clerks to technicians. A brief sampling of actual positions acquired by participants includes housekeeper, desk clerk, janitor, cashier, construction worker, secretary, machine operator, painter, library aide, bookkeeper, data entry clerk, nurse's aide, security guard, medical technician, and assembler.

Conclusion

All Aboard started a meaningful journey for many people looking for work and for the employers and resource agencies in their communities. Results from the eight fairs reconfirmed the value of the job fair approach as a positive community endeavor that enables resource personnel to meet their job development goals and employers to meet their personnel and hiring goals. More importantly, 73 people have the opportunity to provide more adequately for their needs and to make a positive contribution to their communities.

Now the challenge is issued to other communities to get on board. And while the All Aboard planning guide is an easily followed track to a successful job fair, new All Aboard sponsors are encouraged to make All Aboard even more successful by:

* involving more employers and people in need of employment;

* preplanning with employers to bring more management and supervisory positions to the job fair;

* creating computerized systems that enable sponsors to store and match applicant skills and job demands so that it is possible on the day of the fair to route job seekers to interested employers; and

* publicizing the job fair far and wide, using every form of media, so that the call, "All Aboard for employment," is heard clearly throughout the community.

Readers interested in acquiring All Aboard promotional materials should contact Ms. Brown at the following address: Department of Rehabilitation, West Avenue Annex, 346 N. West Avenue, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701.

Dr. Roessler is a university professor of rehabilitation and Ms. Brown is a research associate with the Department of Rehabilitation Education and Research, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.
COPYRIGHT 1992 U.S. Rehabilitation Services Administration
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:All Aboard Job Fair
Author:Brown, Patricia
Publication:American Rehabilitation
Date:Dec 22, 1992
Words:1399
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