Panel Advises on Employer Needs and Fears

Boot Camp for blind job seekers focuses on job hunting skills

Finding a job in the midst of a jobless recovery is daunting.  Add in the fact that you're blind and now you have an idea of the challenges facing the participants in the Boot Camp for Success series. 

Sponsored by the State of Washington Department of Services for the Blind and held at the Washington State School for the Blind in Vancouver the series finished up June 30 and was one of four planned for around the state this year.

The closing session in the series included a panel of local business people discussing what employers are looking for when they hire new employees.

Panelist included Kim Capeloto, CEO of the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce; Tracey Peterkin, owner of TJ & Associates; Linda Frischmeyer, attorney at Landerholm, Memovich,

Lansverk & Whitesides and D'Alene White a Clark County Juvenile Justice Center Probation Officer. 

While the panel offered advice that you would expect to hear at any gathering of job seekers, where the session differed from the norm was in the comments from the business panel members on how and when to disclose their disability.

Utilizing the entire process of application, interview and hiring to build a relationship of trust was the theme echoed by each member of the panel.

They suggested that participants focus initially on the "essential functions" of the job and their ability to perform those functions. At the right time, being transparent about their blindness, the panelist said would help to build that trust.

Cheree Heppe, a participant in the series who recently moved to Vancouver from Connecticut, when asked about this series compared to others said, "It's realistic.  We're hearing from people who are legit.  Most of these types of classes are dumbed down.  This one is not."

As for what the business community should do differently, Capeloto said, "Business owners need to be open minded enough to consider the possibility.  If as employers we would really listen to how an individual with disabilities could fit . . . good things could happen." 

Michael MacKillop, Department of Services for the Blind Team Leader, said the impetus for the Boot Camp centered around a number of agency clients in the state ready to work but lacking in the areas of networking and job seeking skills.  The series was facilitated by Kathy Condon, of Vancouver based KC Solutions.

Over the course of the four sessions Boot Camp participants learned about resume construction, interviewing skills, personal presentation and interaction as well as what employers are seeking in successful candidates. 

Boot Camps were held in Seattle and Tacoma and one is planned for Yakima. The program statewide was funded through appropriations from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

According to MacKillop, the state intends to replicate the series and is looking for potential funding sources at this time.

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