5th Annual Outreach Vendor Fair was a Great Success Thanks to SHRM-STL

Since 2014 the St. Louis Industry Liaison Group (ILG) has partnered with the St. Louis Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) and the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL) to host our outreach vendor fairs.
The purpose of the fair is to allow employers, mostly federal contractors, to meet with Community Based Organizations (CBOs) that focus on providing employment services to veterans and individuals with disabilities. Through face to face conversations, employers learn first-hand how these organizations can support their recruitment and employment initiatives to help ensure compliance with the Vietnam Era Veteran's Readjustment Assistance Act and Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act.

This year saw a 57% growth in employers thanks to the support of SHRM of Greater St. Louis. Final numbers show that 31 CBOs had 50 reps at their booths, and there were 103 representatives from 71 employers, up from 45 employers last year.

How did we make this happen?
  • This year - SHRM-STL helped with marketing, registration and badges. (We really appreciated the help with badges!)
  • The OFCCP reached out to the CBOs as part of their collaboration efforts
  • The University provided the venue including the Rotunda for lunch
  • Cigna sponsored breakfast and lunch
  • The ILG members networked with other employers
  • Local news media included a segment on Fox2 News
  • There were lots of raffles throughout the event
  • The event took place from 9-Noon, with an optional lunch, not a huge time commitment and you could come and go as time allowed
This year the Vendor Fair received some regional attention as a Best Practice. We were pleased to have Carmen Navarro, Acting Regional Director of the Midwest Region fly in town to kick things off. Each hour began with 15 minutes of speakers, testimonials or videos. The rest of the time employers visited with the CBOs to discuss current job openings and how they could develop a partnership to fill those openings with Veterans or People with Disabilities.

This year we added a Networking Lunch for UMSL students who use the Access, Succeed or Veteran Office. It was a chance for students to meet with employers, work on their elevator speeches, and see if there was an opportunity for a full-time job or an internship. From all accounts it was a positive experience for everyone involved and one that we will build upon next year.

The feedback we have gotten this year has been incredibly positive:
  • Employers are making immediate connections with organizations who have qualified candidates available to fill current hourly and salaried openings.
  • Reps from the CBOs look forward to this event. It is the one time each year that federal contractors are coming to them to ask about their services instead of them cold calling companies and trying to get five minutes of their time.
  • Companies who have attended before return in order to make new contacts.
  • Large employers who regularly use the larger CBOs get connected with some smaller organizations.
  • It's a unique opportunity for the CBOs and federal contractors to interact with the staff from the EEOC and OFCCP in a welcoming setting.
  • It's an opportunity for students with disabilities to meet with employers who they know will focus on their strengths
  • It's an opportunity for students who served in the military to meet with employers who are ready to help them transition into the workforce
  • Compliance professionals are seeing such positive results they are bringing the TA staff
  • It's like a reunion for the CBOs to see each other and federal contractors to see their favorite agency representatives and job coaches in person.
This Year's Highlights:
An unexpected highlight this year was the testimonial from an UMSL Graduate of the Succeed Program, Kurt Mueller. Attendees heard Kurt speak from the heart about his autism and how he landed the perfect job “where I am productive!” They also saw a short video from Kurt's parents about what a difference his job has made in his life, and how Kurt is looking forward to drinking a beer in front of his own TV is his own apartment.  Attendees also got an update from Angell Farley, HR Manager from Watlow. Angell has been attending the Vendor Fair since the beginning. She admitted that at first Watlow attended as a matter of compliance with the revised regulations. But since developing partnerships with various organizations, Watlow has placed 20 people with disabilities in their workforce, mostly in manufacturing jobs. They return each year to meet with their existing partners and make new partnerships.

On behalf of the planning committee, we want to extend a huge THANK YOU to SHRM of Greater St. Louis for sponsoring this event. We're already looking forward to next year.

Judy Julius
Owner/Consultant - EEO Consulting
Member-StL-ILG Vendor Fair Planning Committee
Retention Chair - SHRM-STL Membership Committee