Temple College will hold a job fair for high school and college students Jan. 24, and it is structured to also include employment opportunities for young adults with disabilities.

The “Possibilities” Job Fair — in its first year — will be at Temple College’s Academic Center, 2600 S. First St.

A morning session is scheduled for high school students from 9 a.m. to noon, while a second session is slated 1-3 p.m. for college students and young adults.

“We geared it toward our high school students who have disabilities in addition to college students and young adults without disabilities,” said Towanna Smith, a student hireability navigator with Workforce Solutions of Central Texas. “We want to make sure they’re prepared to look for jobs and know how to apply for jobs, so we try to get them ready for that ahead of time. So when they go to the job fairs, they’re able to communicate and know how to have an interview.”

Cheryl Nelson, a transition specialist for Temple Independent School District, said she is excited for the opportunities this job fair can provide since she’s been attempting to get a job fair for students with disabilities for the past couple of years.

“I don’t think employers understand that our students are dependable … And are eager to work and want to work,” Nelson said. “I think (employers) notice they have a disability — whether it’s seen or unseen — and ultimately don’t want to hire them.”

Nelson mentioned a former student who has a hearing impairment. Although the student could hear some activity around her, her impairment hindered her during job searches.

“When she went in for an interview, and she disclosed to the employer about her hearing … that was the end of the interview. She never heard from the employer again,” Nelson said.

Nelson said she thinks that if employers know about disabilities ahead of time through these job fairs, individuals will be better able to seek employment.

Job fair sponsors include Superior HealthPlan, Workforce Solutions of Central Texas, Heart of Central Texas Independent Living Center, Temple College and the Temple College Foundation.

The U.S. National Guard, U.S. Census Bureau, Baylor Scott & White and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice are among groups registered to participate. Smith said she invites any additional interested employers or businesses to register by contacting her at 254-394-0536.

“I just want them to know that we’re looking for opportunities to get our youths work experience and to learn some skills … so they can be a force when it’s time to graduate from high school,” Smith said.

Smith said she also is searching for businesses to participate in the Summer Earn and Learn program — a seven-week internship that runs from June to August.

“This program is particularly geared toward those with disabilities, and we’re looking for employers who will hire our students,” Smith said. “The good thing about that is we cover their wages and pay their workman’s compensation. So we’re looking for employers to help us with that as well.”

Smith said she hopes initiatives, including the “Possibilities” Job Fair and the Summer Earn and Learn program, will help drive the elimination of stigmas surrounding people with disabilities.

“We’re actually going to have somebody talking to the employers, too, about the benefits of hiring people with disabilities,” Nelson said.