Career fair provides opportunities for students

Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services hosted a Diversity Career Fair on April 20 at St. Thomas Aquinas Church & Catholic Student Center. The Diversity Career Fair gave persons with disabilities seeking employment a chance to network with employers. 

Whitney Mason

Kristi Frohwein, a rehabilitation associate for Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation, wanted to provide a small, relaxing and welcoming venue for students with unique challenges to find jobs after graduation from Iowa State.

With 2,000 students at Iowa State seeking disability resources on campus, Frohwein knew that a fair needed to be created for students to have easier access to future jobs.

Before the fair, a panel of five students with different disabilities spoke to employers involved in the fair.

“It was the panel sharing their experiences,” Frohwein said.

Frohwein said the experiences could either be positive or negative, but most importantly it was information that the students wanted employers to be informed. 

Companies and organizations such as Iowa State’s Department of Human Resources, Barilla, Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation and Progress Industries were in attendance.

Frohwein said the employers were companies and organizations in search of diversity within their workforce.

To recruit businesses, Frohwein delivered flyers to multiple companies, sent out emails to organizations that are part of the Ames Chamber and made phone calls.

One of the organizations that received a contact from Frohwein was Progress Industries.

With 289 current employees, the organization began in Newton, Iowa, in 1979 to give support for individuals with disabilities.

“We help them with needs, like residential needs or vocational needs,” said Kelly Decker, vice president of human resources for the organization.

The organization has been working closely with Iowa State since 2015, when the organization opened a small office in Ames.

Decker and Jane Johnson, a human resource generalist, described the employees of the organizations as “coaches” and “developers” for people with disabilities.

“They [coaches and developers] are helping people obtain and maintain employment,” Decker said.

The organization provides homes that accommodate for individuals with disabilities. There are currently 11 in Newton, Iowa, and nine in Des Moines. There currently isn’t one in Ames, just an office that serves all of Story County.

Decker said that the organization is currently accepting applications for new employees.

Overall, Frohwein believed that Iowa State does a great job connecting students to disability resources.

“At orientation they make sure they have the Cyclone aids stop by their offices [student disability offices] to get student familiarized,” Frohwein said.

Frohwein also stated how there is a booth at the resource fair provided by the Dean of Students that is a valuable way to connect students to the resources.

“At the end of the day it’s all about educating others, ” Frohwein said.