Mitchell, Pfizer join to help disabled grads find work

UPDATED: New London - Faced with an astonishing 45 percent unemployment rate, graduates with disabilities who are fresh out of college face greater hurdles entering the workplace than most other minorities.

So Mitchell College, in a partnership with Pfizer Inc., is sponsoring a career development and networking event from noon to 4 p.m. Wednesday to help recent graduates and college students with disabilities find their way through the employment maze.

The event called "Target Your Talent," at which Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will give the keynote address, is expected to attract about 75 people, including employers, college representatives, disabilities advocates, Mitchell College alumni and students from around Connecticut.

A college spokeswoman said Monday that the event is completely filled and no more registrations can be accepted.

"We're not doing a good enough job at the college level of planning for the transition between high school and college," said Amanda Ljubicic, assistant director of career services at Mitchell College. "But it's just as big if not a bigger transition to go from college into the work force."

Ljubicic said people with disabilities have some advantages today that weren't available to past generations. The Internet allows people to apply for positions based on their resume, rather than face to face, so any physical disability does not have to be disclosed at the outset, and technology provides on-the-job help for many of those with learning difficulties.

In addition, new laws protect discrimination against people with disabilities and require employers to provide reasonable accommodations for those who need support systems in the workplace, such as text-to-speech software for people with visual problems.

What's more, many employers are taking a proactive stance toward hiring people with disabilities, including companies attending Wednesday's event, Ljubicic said.

"Employers represented are committed to diversifying their work force by including people with disabilities," Ljubicic said.

Employers available for networking opportunities will be Chelsea Groton Bank, Dime Savings Bank, Lawrence & Memorial Hospital, Mohegan Sun, Traveler's Insurance, Sea Research Inc. and The Washington Trust Co.

Institutions of higher learning represented at the event will include Connecticut College, the University of Connecticut and Three Rivers Community College.

Ljubicic hopes that mentoring and networking opportunities with potential employers will help these students develop more confidence when they look for a job.

She also expects that students with disabilities will be inspired by the story of Gov. Malloy, who battled dyslexia as a child.

The problem many people with disabilities have in getting hired is that they have never worked before, Ljubicic added. While other students pursue job opportunities, people with disabilities often are struggling so hard at school and home that they have little energy left to focus on work skills, she said.

"A person with a disability might be qualified for a position ... but they don't have the experience required," she said. "They're already at a disadvantage."

l.howard@theday.com

MORE INFORMATION

Contact Amanda Ljubicic at 860-629-6115 or ljubicic_a@mitchell.edu.

Join the Target Your Talent group at the social-networking site Linked-In.

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