AUSTIN (KXAN) — Unemployment in Austin is at 2.3 percent, the lowest it’s been since the turn of the century. But when most people have jobs, it’s harder for employers to find workers to fill open positions.  

The hospitality industry isn’t always kind to everyone. Take HR director Elva Zdeb at the Embassy Suites in San Marcos, for example. She said hiring can be a struggle lately. 

“Before, employees were knocking down the door to find work. Well, not anymore. Now we are looking for them.”

So she opened her mind and talent pool to everyone. 

“There are a lot of people in our untapped workforce that we reach out to because no one has reached out to them before.”  

John Wendel is one person she hired. Wendel, who has autism, has worked at the hotel for over a year. He said his disability kept him and others like him from earning jobs in the past. 

“I thought, ok, maybe my disability does have something to do with it.”  

“With a few simple accommodations, a lot of people with a perceived disability can be one of the most valuable employees we ever had,” said Paul Fletcher, the CEO of the Rural Capital Area Workforce Development Board. 

Employers are not just targeting those with disabilities. Hiring managers are now filling open seats with people who may have prison records or those who are approaching retirement. This willingness to look in areas where employers haven’t searched before not only provides jobs to qualified people, but also allows businesses to grow in a hard-to-hire market. 

“The job opportunities here are almost unlimited. It’s just a matter of being open-minded,” Fletcher said. 

Wendel is using this opportunity to build confidence in his skills and become a model for others who may have struggled to find a job. 

“I just wanted to have my voice heard and just be an advocate for other people,” Wendel said. 

Wendel was able to make his connection with Embassy Suites through the Workforce Solutions Rural Capital Area. It’s a community partnership which helps connect people with job opportunities. 

The organization can accommodate anyone in Central Texas with the hiring process, from building resumes to practicing mock interviews.