Career Options Day assists people with disabilities in finding jobs

BY Briana Vannozzi, Senior Correspondent |

Thirty-year-old Rebeccah Brockman is on the job hunt. She wants to go into the medical field, but says at this point in her search, she’ll take anything. She says it’s been difficult to find work because she has a disability.

Brockman, like many others, are hoping this career fair, geared toward individuals with disabilities, at Hackensack Meridian Health JFK Rehabilitation Institute in Edison, will help bridge the gap.

“A lot of the human resources work today has gone electronic, so you lose a lot of the face-to-face exchange that people have with employers,” said Clinical Supervisor Bertalan Kormann.

Now in its 36th year, the Career Options Day helps people with disabilities connect with employers and service providers to help them get and keep a job, like a program called NJTIP from Rutgers.

“I’m teaching them to ride independently and to travel all different places independently,” said Louis Hoffman, NJTIP training coordinator. “[That includes] public transportation, sometimes we work with other options to get them the first and last mile.”

Forty-nine employers have tables at the event with everything from tech to retail and life sciences represented.

“I’ve spoken to a lot of people and everybody is willing to help, and I think I can find something. I will find something, hopefully,” said Alvaro Gutierrez, job seeker.

“Individuals that have challenges, or disabilities, or any kind of difficulties, I think historically they’ve had to work just a little bit harder at everything to succeed, in the same way as someone without disabilities has to. So I think usually you’re going to get a little extra effort from the clients that we serve in the vocational rehabilitation world,” Kormann said.

The fair is also open to the community. In the weeks and months after, JFK coordinators will follow-up with employers to see just how many interviews and job placements were offered.

“So a lot varies on the disability. They have to be able to work alone in the home, so that varies, and they also do have to have some experience in caring for people, so it varies,” said Reeta Aggarwal, owner of Brightstar Homecare.

“We want to place our students from Holmdel High School into real life situations where they’re actually meeting real employers,” said Holmdel School District transition coordinator Doreen Riegal.

This brought best friends and high school students Jordan Yennello and Alyssa Bruccato. Both currently work at the new Bellworks in Holmdel.

“We both do the mail and we deliver the mail,” said Yennello. “It’s really good.”

A lot of the concern comes after they turn 21 and they’re out of the school system.

“That’s why there’s a big push to get these kids employed before they leave the school district, when they have all these supports in place, and if they need to work on something, we can work on it and not wait until after 21,” Riegal said.

The career fair has grown significantly over the years. JFK estimates anywhere from 200 to 500 candidates will cycle through the doors at this event, with the potential for dozens of new jobs.