Rockford Public Schools Host Reverse Job Fair

In May, Rockford Public Schools, in collaboration with RAMP Center for Independent Living, hosted a Reverse Job Fair at the Embassy Suites Hotel in downtown Rockford. Students with intellectual disabilities ranging in age from 18 to 22 have been working hard over the course of the school year to learn entry-level employability skills through the internship program Project SEARCH.

Students underwent extensive training in three departments at their respective internship locations, Mercyhealth and Embassy Suites. As their internships are coming to an end soon, the district’s goal is to help them secure competitive, paid employment in the community.

In hopes of exposing interns to many job opportunities, employers from all over the community were invited to attend the Reverse Job Fair, including GE Aerospace, ASM Rockford, UPS, Fastenal, and Beef-A-Roo. This job fair differed from most in that businesses were hopping from table to table to learn more about the interns instead of the other way around. To help spark conversation, Project SEARCH interns created displays that showcased their skills and talents. In addition, interns had their resumes available for inquiry by the business partners. This event not only provided an opportunity for employers to connect with numerous ready-to-hire job seekers, but it also allowed them to understand the students’ capabilities and interests, and how these individuals can help serve their business.

Raegan Pena with Fastenal commented, “It was a pleasure getting to know the interns! We had great conversations with each of them. It was wonderful hearing about their experiences and seeing them take pride in their work. Each intern spoke very highly of the Project SEARCH program, and I think that says a lot about what it’s doing for them and the community.”

As a result of the Reverse Job Fair, one intern has already accepted a position with GE, and multiple interviews are in the works with other prospective employers who were in attendance that day.

The Project SEARCH Employment Specialists play a pivotal role in helping interns apply and interview for open positions and onboarding them once they are hired. Employment Specialists will ensure the interns’ success in the work setting by providing accommodations and modifications as necessary and working with the businesses to create a smooth transition.

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