The job market today can be scary, especially in the North Country where unemployment has consistently been around 10 percent. Students with disabilities may have legal protections, but the crucial parts of connections, internships and hands on training can add to the uncertainty. But as our Brian Dwyer reports, Wednesday was a big day across the county, bringing those students and potential employers together.
WATERTOWN, N.Y. -- Despite being labeled as disabled, Shawn Clay is no different than any other student with dreams of entering the real world and getting a job he loves.
"Working at a repair place painting. That's what I like to do, paint," Clay said.
But jobs in the North Country, especially for students just getting out of school, are at a premium and despite legal protections, a disability can be an issue for some employers. So as part of a program called Disability Mentoring Day, the Northern Regional Center for Independent living contacted a dozen or so business in the Watertown area.
Clay and a couple dozen other disabled students got to pick an interest and job shadow for the day. Clay picked the Army National Guard's Training Equipment Site on Fort Drum.
"I learned I had more options than what I did before I came here. I learned a lot about how it runs," Clay said.
"I was amazed at how many employers are very open," Bill Nygard of NRCIL said about setting this day up. "When you see how many people in the world have somebody in their family, or themselves that have a similar situation, there's much more empathy or an openness to take people and take that chance."
Whether it's military or civilian jobs, during Wednesday's tour that openness was evident.
"It's great," NY MATES Supply Supervisor SFC Steven Gould said. "When you put this out on the TV, everybody is going to see and at it's going to give them an opportunity to say we need somebody like that in our facility."
All that the businesses and regional center ask in return is for the students to be active from here on out. They hope they can use what they learned and get into a vocational program or college to make those connections and chase their goals. That's the path to a career.