ST. PAUL, Minn. — Bethel University senior Ben Hernes and his sister Anna Substad, a 2019 Bethel graduate, are preparing to launch a platform that will help individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities jump-start their careers.

The online job board, called RecruitABLE, will offer individuals with IDD creative ways to showcase their talents and expertise beyond a traditional resume or cover letter.

“In today’s market, there are a lot of obstacles to overcome for people with IDD to get a job, and to get a job that they like,” Substad said. “It’s risky to disclose if you have a disability, and from the employer’s side of things, sometimes it’s actually illegal to ask an employee directly if they have disabilities.”

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In June, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported an employment-population ratio of 17.5 percent for persons with a disability, compared with an employment-population ratio for persons without a disability at 59.7 percent.

Combating obstacles

RecruitABLE aims to combat these obstacles by offering employers a place to post jobs a candidate with a disability could thrive in, and offering candidates a curated list of potential job openings with the ability to filter their job searches by required accommodations.

RecruitABLE users will be able to create a profile similar to those on LinkedIn, except featuring more interactive content like automated video interviews, photos and video of the candidate working and curated questions that reveal the candidate’s strengths, interests and personality.

Hernes and Substad have an aunt with Down syndrome, someone they say inspired their commitment to helping individuals with IDD at an early age.

“We spent a lot of time with her growing up, so Ben and I have always been exposed to and passionate about the IDD community,” Substad said.

The siblings from Fairmont, Minn., were involved in Bethel’s Inclusive Learning and Development program, a two-year postsecondary and residential program that began in 2015 for students with intellectual disabilities.

“I’ve seen the barriers directly that our students face, both in finding internships and work after they graduate,” BUILD Internship Supervisor and RecruitABLE adviser Ryan Anderson said. “(RecruitABLE) is going to improve the efficiency and improve their ability to locate jobs, but also hopefully help employers find them, as well.”

Job mentors

Bethel students like Hernes can apply to be job mentors through the BUILD program, where they coach BUILD students throughout their internships. Hernes said he spent his freshman year at Bethel working with a BUILD student at a Dunn Brothers coffeehouse.

“You might not think of it as the most fulfilling job in the world, but she absolutely loved going in every day and she loved to see her picture on the employee board at the front,” Hernes said.

Anderson says the job openings on RecruitABLE will vary widely, from positions at restaurants to office work.

In June, Hernes and Substad’s RecruitABLE pitch won the 2020 Destination Medical Center Assistive Tech Challenge through the Mayo Clinic. With the $5,000 prize, they plan to license the software for RecruitABLE and build a team.

Substad said the team hopes to launch the pilot program in late August or early September.

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