AbilityLinks and Project Starfish America Announce New Partnership

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AbilityLinks.org is a Program of Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital

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“I’m very excited about AbilityLinks partnering with Project Starfish,” says Ken Skord, AbilityLinks program director.

AbilityLinks.org, Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital’s job-opportunity network, and Project Starfish America, a business skills development program, are announcing a partnership to collaborate their efforts to reduce the high unemployment rate for people with disabilities.

Project Starfish is an organization that has built an experiential business training, business engagement and employment platform that assists disabled professionals to learn, earn, and grow professionally, and AbilityLinks.org is a job-opportunity website with a community of powerhouse individuals with disabilities who are looking to become employed or to better themselves professionally.

Abilitylinks.org will be working to find appropriate persons with disabilities from its collection of résumés and new candidates. Project Starfish will work with Abilitylinks.org to bring select candidates into their program and help them develop their startup and small-business ideas at no charge. Both organizations will also conduct training, webinars, outreach events, and other services to ensure trainees get back to the workforce, thus creating a solution to high unemployment.

While the two programs differ in their focuses, they have similar objectives. “I’m very excited about AbilityLinks partnering with Project Starfish,” says Ken Skord, AbilityLinks program director. “Both organizations share a passion for increasing employment of persons with disabilities, through the use of internet-based technology. Despite having the education, experience, and determination to succeed, many disabled individuals are unemployed after traditional job searches. Entrepreneurship and self-employment are becoming increasingly popular options.”

The award-winning AbilityLinks.org was created in 2001 as a way to connect inclusive employers and qualified job-seekers with disabilities. Project Starfish America was founded last year to assist people with disabilities in professional training for workplace readiness. Both programs have been tremendously successful in helping disabled individuals transition into careers, either as a return to work or an initial entry into the workforce. While each program offers valuable disability resources, pairing their unique assets will make for a more efficient and successful process.

“Bringing these two entities together makes sense,” notes Subhashish Acharya, founder of Project Starfish. “It fills a need for a new kind of partnership, where talented AbilityLinks job-seekers can access Project Starfish’s real-world business training, experiential learning, and opportunity platform to engage with businesses to advance their professional goals. With this process, they can augment their skills, experience, résumé, and professional business networks, consequently increasing employment potential.”

From the beginning, AbilityLinks has been a broad network for job-seekers with any type of disability. Project Starfish has been more specific, aiding primarily blind individuals. They are now expanding, especially with this partnership, in an effort to include all disability types. Their next focus will be helping disabled veterans get back to work. “These veterans have given much to the country,” says Acharya. “We want to give back to them by helping them in this way. The immense success we’ve achieved with blind individuals can work for anyone, due to our training and engagement model.”

Project Starfish will be one of the participating companies in AbilityLinks’s upcoming virtual job fair, occurring Tuesday, June 17 through Thursday, June 19, as well as the subsequent fair in October. Skord notes that the job fair is a good opportunity for employers to meet the 2014 ruling from the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) that 7% of federal contractor workforces be individuals with disabilities. “As of May 2014, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities in the United States is 12.7%, more than double the unemployment rate for non-disabled individuals (5.8%),” Skord says. “Employers and federal contractors can positively impact this rate by participating in our virtual job fairs and networking with this talented workforce.” Whereas AbilityLinks has been focused within the United States, Project Starfish will also be adding an international aspect to the event—they currently work with individuals and companies in five different countries.

The free online AbilityLinks recruiting event is accessible anywhere 24 hours a day; registration for this popular event is underway and sponsorship opportunities are available. Job-seekers and employers who are interested in exhibiting at or sponsoring the AbilityLinks job fair may register by clicking on the Virtual Job Fair link on http://www.AbilityLinks.org.

Acharya says that the job fair will be a prime event to establish the new partnership. “AbilityLinks is a powerful network of talented individuals who are seeking work and experience—and companies wanting to hire them,” he says. “Project Starfish is a virtual socio-economic model that creates opportunities, jobs, engagement with businesses, and experienced workers. The partnership forms a value chain to solve the unemployment challenges faced by individuals with disabilities.” Skord agrees, noting the additional resources Project Starfish adds to the equation. “With this partnership, AbilityLinks job-seekers can connect to Project Starfish’s real-world business training, coaching, and acumen—and realize their potential.”

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Denise LeBloch
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