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Sibling Team to Launch RecruitABLE, a Job Platform for People with Disabilities

Ben Hernes ’21 and Anna Substad ’19, brother and sister, were awarded $5,000 in grant money to develop their job platform, RecruitABLE, specifically designed to help individuals with disabilities showcase their unique skillsets to employers.

By Cherie Suonvieri '15, content specialist

August 10, 2020 | 11 a.m.

RecruitABLE Team

The larger team behind RecruitABLE includes Ryan Anderson, BUILD internship supervisor; David Jungers, of The Arc Minnesota; Benjamin Hernes '21; Suzanne and Michael Wall, parents of a student in the BUILD program; and Anna Substad '19

Growing up, siblings Benjamin Hernes ’21 and Anna Substad ’19 worked together as siblings typically do. They ran their fair share of lemonade stands and collaborated on other childhood projects. But the pair recently had a new opportunity to partner in an academic and professional context, through their research and development of an application they call RecruitABLE—a job platform designed for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

“The labor force participation rate for those with disabilities is only 32%, whereas participation for those without disabilities is 77%,” Hernes says. “That’s a problem for people with disabilities who feel like they can’t contribute and for companies who are missing out on a valuable section of the workforce.”

RecruitABLE seeks to help close that gap by connecting individuals with IDD to jobs that match their unique skillsets and personalities. “Rather than a traditional resume, which often struggles to capture a person’s whole persona, RecruitABLE would have distinct characteristics, like video capability, to differentiate it from a regular job board. This would help connect employers and employees in a unique way,” Substad explains.

The RecruitABLE app will allow individuals with IDD to create a dynamic profile with photos, videos, professional references, and curated questions including interests, strengths, and “superpowers” to reveal more about themselves as individuals and as potential employees. Candidates will also have access to a list of potential job openings, with the option to search by their needed accommodations. On the flipside, RecruitABLE will also give employers access to a curated list of job candidates and a place to post open positions that someone with a disability could excel in.

Hernes emphasizes that it’s not just employers who want to do charity work that would benefit from RecruitABLE. “There’s an index from the American Association for People with Disabilities called the Disability Equality Index, and it rates businesses on disability and inclusion policies and procedures,” Hernes says. “The top 20% of companies on that index outperform the others in so many areas like profitability, innovation, market share, and productivity. If employers are going to be part of the job board, they’re benefitting, too.”

"My life has been changed—definitely changed for the better—because of people with IDD, so the BUILD program and the opportunities that it presents at Bethel has been a really important piece of my education so far."

— Benjamin Hernes '21

Hernes and Substad’s passion for the IDD community has been inspired by their relationship with their aunt Ruth who has Down syndrome and furthered by their connection with Bethel’s BUILD program, which provides a comprehensive educational experience for students with intellectual disabilities. While students at Bethel, Hernes and Substad worked alongside students in the BUILD program as job mentors and academic mentors, and it was through their connection with BUILD that RecruitABLE came to be.

Michael and Suzanne Wall, parents of a student in the BUILD program, approached Ryan Anderson, BUILD internship supervisor, about the need for a better way to connect individuals with disabilities to employment opportunities. Anderson asked Hernes, an economics and finance major, if he’d be willing to take on the project. Hernes asked Substad, a Bethel nursing alumna, if she’d like to be involved as well. Then, through a connection with Michael Wall, David Jungers of The Arc Minnesota joined the conversation. Together, the six of them make up the RecruitABLE team.

 

Bethel alumna

Anna Substad '19 with her aunt Ruth, who has helped inspire her passion for individuals with IDD.

In order to make RecruitABLE a reality, Hernes and Substad prepared a presentation for Destination Medical Center’s Assistive Tech Challenge, a virtual pitch competition that seeks solutions to facilitate greater independence for people with disabilities. The RecruitABLE team took first place in the Open Division, earning $5,000 to help with the launch of the job platform.

Since the competition, the RecruitABLE team has been hard at work to get the platform up and running. The Arc Minnesota, has agreed to co-house and co-maintain the job board, and the team’s hope is to have employers and candidates selected for a pilot group in Minneapolis and Rochester by the end of August.

“If we run even just one pilot round and one or two people find employment that makes their lives more fulfilling, that would just be great,” Hernes says. “To help someone with IDD—a friend especially, if it’s someone from Bethel—that makes it all worth it and that’s what’s kept me moving.”

Substad agrees, and she adds that making it easier for companies to hire people with disabilities has been another motivator. “I know for Ben and I, just how much our lives have been blessed by our aunt Ruth and the whole community of people we know with disabilities,” she says. “Bringing that community forward and letting their lights shine is what I’m hoping RecruitABLE is able to do.”

Those interested in learning more about RecruitABLE, being part of the pilot program, or financially supporting the project can contact Benjamin Hernes at b-hernes@bethel.edu.

RecruitABLE has garnered attention from local media as well, including KARE 11 news.

BUILD program at Bethel

BUILD at Bethel

At Bethel, we believe everyone should have the opportunity to explore their passions, discover their purpose, and fulfill their God-given potential. The BUILD program provides a supportive environment where individuals with intellectual disabilities can do just that. 

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