With a bachelor’s degree in management and organizational leadership in hand, SPC alumna Nicole St. Clair entered a job market that would look unwelcoming to anyone, let alone someone with a disability. But with the help of Kelly Ferranti, a mentor in the college’s Student Employment Project, St. Clair didn’t have to face her employment search alone.
The Student Employment Project is a program that helps students with disabilities to find jobs that complement their degrees. For St. Clair, who is hearing impaired, the relationship with Ferranti proved to be the key to success, helping her overcome barriers that often keep people with disabilities out of the workforce.
“Kelley went out to speak to companies on my behalf,” said St. Clair, who graduated in spring 2012. “She would send me emails telling me what positions the companies said I was qualified to seek. Then she helped me with my resume and she prepared me for interviews. She was fabulous; she went above and beyond.”
After four months of searching, St. Clair found a job as an enrollment specialist with Universal Health Care in St. Petersburg, where she processes requests for additional coverage. She hopes the position will lead to a long-term career at the company.
While at SPC, St. Clair was among 60 students participating in the Student Employment Project. The program is funded by a three-year, $200,000 grant awarded by The Able Trust, a state-supported initiative that provides Florida residents with disabilities opportunities for successful employment.
The goal of the program is to open doors and improve job opportunities for people with disabilities who have the education and skills required to succeed as professionals. It provides students with disabilities with job placement specialists like Ferranti who help them write effective resumes and teach them interview skills. The specialists also assist with identifying employment opportunities as well as educating them on workplace behaviors.
According to the 2010 Harris Interactive survey The ADA, 20 Years Later, only 21 percent of persons with disabilities aged 18–64 are employed full- or part-time, far below the 59 percent reported for persons without disabilities.
“While I was looking for a job, Kelley and I met once a week to see how everything was going,” St. Clair said. “I got discouraged at times and she told me it would take time and to be patient; that the right job would come along. Well, Kelley was right.”