- Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission
Video: Employers and Potential Candidates Reflect on their ExperienceSkip this video Employers and Potential Candidates Reflect on their Experience.
On Wednesday, October 12, more than 190 job candidates met with 53 different employers at the 10th Annual Hiring Event hosted by the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). This one-of-a-kind yearly event showcases how government agencies can work together to serve their constituents and businesses on a state and federal level.
The agencies have always worked in the same sphere; OFCCP focuses on ensuring businesses meet compliance goals, while MRC prepares individuals with disabilities for employment. A decade ago, Rhonda Aubin-Smith, the District Director of OFCCP's Boston office, reached out to MRC's Assistant Commissioner of Vocational Rehabilitation and Workforce Development, Joan Phillips, to find a that their two agencies could partner and create opportunities for job seekers and employers.
Assistant Commissioner Phillips reflected on the relationship, saying, "It is strong, resilient, and durable. We have grown to love this partnership more and more each year." MRC Commissioner Toni Wolf added, "We are focused on making our state a leader in creating a truly inclusive and equitable workforce."
District Director Smith made an important distinction, saying, "This is a hiring event, NOT a job fair." She explained that it's not just a networking event. Individuals with disabilities are being interviewed today, and employers are ready to hire them. "I wish I could duplicate this event across the country."
U.S. Secretary of Labor, and former Mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh, recorded keynote remarks. "For far too long, America's nearly 30 million working-age people with disabilities have not gotten the opportunity they deserve," Secretary Walsh said. "American workers are strong because of who they are and what they offer, and that is especially true of individuals with disabilities."
The day was focused on creating employment opportunities and more than 50 people met with employers in person for interviews at the MRC office in Boston. One of those individuals, Carlos Fernandez, spent most of his career as an electrician in Worcester. Recently, physical injuries compelled him to transition to a new career. That morning, he had already met with BAE Systems, a national defense contractor, and had two other interviews scheduled later that day. Carlos said, "An event like this is so helpful because you have employers looking for employees." Jen Abdinoor, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Talent Lead at BAE systems, said her company is beginning to focus outside the common areas they had been using to recruit talent. "Organizations like MRC and OFCCP allow us to tap into that candidate pool."
Another candidate, Rose Laure Massenat, was ecstatic about this opportunity to meet with employers in person. She grew up and worked in Haiti, and since she moved to Roxbury in 2018, had been unable to find work. "I'm very excited to take part in the event, and MRC has helped me so much." At the event, she was able to interview with three different employers face-to-face and added, "I'm very grateful for the opportunity."
Virtual interviews took place for those who couldn't be physically at the event. From 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., 140 interviews occurred through Zoom, allowing employers to interview qualified candidates with disabilities across the state. For Schneider Laguerre, a Deaf man, this was a perfect scenario. He could have ASL interpreters with him as he met with employers, which can be hard to arrange. "MRC had interpreters ready, and I could communicate fully during the interviews. This is the first time everything has been ready for me," he shared.
Lee Ann Paulson had found herself in a bit of a rut. "Having this opportunity really broke me out of my shell," she shared. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she decided to return to school and discovered that MRC offered programs for people who experienced invisible disabilities, like herself. "This is an amazing opportunity to show employers who I am as a person and the experience that I have. I would not have the opportunity to sit down with Boston College had it not been for MRC."
"Today was an incredible day," said Bill Allen, MRC's Director of Statewide Job Placement Services. In his mind, the day is always successful because it brings jobseekers into the building, and at that moment, they become candidates for jobs. "We bring people to interview to showcase their skills and talents," he said. "This becomes more than just a standard hiring event; it's an opportunity to change lives.
Commissioner Wolf wished the job candidates the best of luck. However, she said, "You don't need it. You have talent, and you have expertise. And you have employers looking to create an inclusive workforce." Assistant Commissioner Phillips added, "It's good business to hire individuals with disabilities. And MRC is here to assist you and prepare individuals with the skills relevant to the current labor market."
Commissioner Wolf added, "You've got this!"