PEKIN — A relatively new Tazewell County organization is working with area schools and businesses with the hope of getting those with mental disabilities hired after school districts can no longer provide its services. 

The Tazewell County Partnership for Inclusive Employment aims to help those who lose those services once he or she turns 22 by engaging with prospective employers.

TCPIE was spearheaded by Pekin Community High School special education teacher Sara Boerma and now consists of educators, social service employees and a business owner in Tazewell County.

The young organization held its first event last year to attract prospective employers to learn about employing adults with disabilities. TCPIE will host its second “Reverse Job Fair” from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Wednesday at Freedom Hall in Morton, 345 W. Birchwood.

Earl Loring, President of Heart of Morton, said this year’s event will hopefully bring in more businesses so they can provide awareness that this type of organization exists, “but also to relieve some anxiety, tension, general confusion and misunderstanding about hiring adults with cognitive disabilities.”

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, close to 20 percent of the labor workforce is made up of those with disabilities, compared to 68 percent of those without disabilities. However, the unemployment rate for those with disabilities is over twice the amount of those without — 10.2 percent compared to 4.7 percent.

Since the cut off for school support is 22 years old for those in the state provided programs, Loring said he and his colleagues at TCPIE hope to become the bridge between businesses and the students.

“That’s what we want to demonstrate, is that you’re not doing this alone,” Loring said. “... We want to underscore the success of the school program and then extend that ... We see us amplifying the school message beyond the age of 22.”

Participating in Wednesday’s event will be several schools from Tazewell County, including PCHS, Schramm Educational Center, Washington Community High School, Morton High School, Tremont High School and Deer Creek-Mackinaw High School. 

Organizations present will include E!PIC, Human Rights Authority, Tazewell County Resource Center, Career Link and Bridgeway. Speakers from Buffalo Wild Wings, Fist National Bank of Tremont, Colby Natural Health, Serv Pro and Advanced Medical Transport are also planned to be at Wednesday’s event.