Job Fair at Special Olympics USA Games Capitalizes on Competitive Skills
SEATTLE – When Heather Bump and more than 3,000 other athletes from across the country take to the field at the University of Washington July 1-6 for the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games, they’re not just competing for medals under the eyes of spectators. They’re also getting a chance to turn the determination, self-discipline and teamwork they learn through competing and training into selling points to potential employers. For the first time, SourceAmerica, a national leader in disability employment, teamed up with Special Olympics to host the Journey of Employment job fair as a coaching and networking resource for athletes at the 2018 USA Games.
Bump works at the Arc of Livingston-Wyoming in Geneseo, New York, a member of the SourceAmerica network of nonprofits employing people with disabilities. She has been competing in Special Olympics for 40 years. Her mother, Veronica, said Heather has won “bags of medals” in track and field, swimming, volleyball, floor hockey and other events. At this year’s USA Games, Bump is competing in golf. In addition to improving her daughter’s motor skills, the training and competition in Special Olympics has improved her focus, self-confidence and team work, her mother said.
“It’s taught her how to get along with people … It’s helped her at work, it’s helped her make new friends,” Veronica Bump said. “She is so excited about this trip. I’ve never seen her so excited.”
To encourage athletes to put those kinds of soft job skills to use in the workplace, the Journey of Employment job fair July 5-6 is offering career coaching, interview tips and introductions to participating companies such as Microsoft, Starbucks, Amazon, Bank of America, Kaiser Permanente, Boeing, Brooks Running Company, City of Seattle, King County and Walmart. Athletes will embark on a trip through a series of stations to assess, polish and present their skills to prospective employers that recognize the potential of Special Olympics athletes on the job.
Despite the current low rate of unemployment for the country, roughly 80 percent of people with disabilities are currently left out of the work force. It’s a trend SourceAmerica is working to improve.
“We have an estimated 24 million people with disabilities in this country – that makes them our largest, most diverse minority group,” said Ellis Rosenberg, senior vice president for Growth at SourceAmerica. “It’s a workforce of untapped potential, and we deeply appreciate the partners who are joining us in building an inclusion economy, one that recognizes the talent and potential of us all.”
Beth Knox, president and CEO of the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games, agreed.
“Special Olympics athletes have worked hard on and off the field to compete on a national stage, and it’s that same determination and mindset that make them valuable assets for employers,” Knox said. “People with intellectual disabilities are often an untapped resource for employers, and we’re so excited to provide a platform for our athletes and employers to connect.”