Maryland job fair for the disabled has slim pickings Layoffs thin ranks of employers to 16


Carol James Taylor, an accountant who has been unemployed since she lost her sight in 1979, waited patiently in line for 15 minutes to reach the table staffed by a recruiter from the Fidelity & Deposit Co. of Maryland -- only to find out the company wasn't hiring.

"They are not employing at the moment. But that doesn't dampen my spirit," she said as she visited the state's first-ever job fair for Baltimore-area disabled people yesterday.

The gymnasium of the Maryland Rehabilitation Center on Argonne Drive was thick with freshly pressed suits and new hopes as recruiters from 16 local employers interviewed and took resumes from approximately 200 disabled Baltimoreans.

But the job pickings were thin -- thinner even than the fair's planners had expected.

Several companies that had initially agreed to recruit employees at the job fair canceled at the last minute because of impending layoffs, said Patricia Alvey, supervisor of job placement at the center.

In fact, two of the recruiters who were supposed to attend were themselves laid off.

But the center went ahead with the job fair because some companies were still hiring, and the year-old Americans with Disabilities Act is pushing employers to open more jobs to people with disabilities, Ms. Alvey said.

Ms. Alvey conceded that, sometimes, she gets discouraged by the poor job market. But, eventually, the economy will rebound, she believes, and job opportunities for the disabled will improve.

"I've seen the economy go up and down a few times. We've got to keep our clients ready," she said.

For some, the readiness will pay off. A few employers said yesterday that they would hire some of the people they met at the center.

Maryland Medical Laboratory recruiter Marilyn Martin, for example, said she has several openings for $6-an-hour clerical workers and lab assistants, and had talked to several qualified people.

Mary Beth Harris and Colleen Ryan, two recruiters from T. Rowe Price Associates Inc., also said they were considering the new applicants for several clerical and customer service openings.

But Joan Meyers of Fidelity & Deposit said that, though she met many highly qualified applicants, hiring prospects at her Baltimore-based company, which has had a hiring freeze since January, were slim.

She participated in the job fair because she is a member of the center's advisory board, and wanted to give its clients experience in interviewing, she said.

The sparse opportunities left some applicants frustrated.

Several people stopped at the Service America Corp. table, only to find there weren't any openings. Nevertheless, they handed their resumes over to the Nathaniel Alston Jr. and pressed him to promise that he would not forget them.

"You'll keep us in mind?" one applicant asked. "Really?"

David Turetsky, a former computer salesman who has been unemployed since he had a heart operation four years ago, complained that the quality of the job openings was also poor.

"There are not enough companies offering professional jobs," he said.

"But you have to start somewhere," he shrugged.

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