By Cody Neff
There were no rides at this fair, but the prizes were worth more than a stuffed animal. To win, all you had to do was fill out some paperwork and hope you get picked. It wasn’t as fun as the State Fair, but a job fair puts food on the table.
The Register-Herald hosted its seventh fall job fair at Tamarack Wednesday and the annual event gathered a crowd.
“The first job fair started in the spring around seven years ago,” Classified Ad Manager Diana Slone said. “Mining was big in the beginning and all the way up until this year. We don’t have them with us this year. We’ve had other opportunities out there though.”
With nearly 20 companies offering jobs at the fair, opportunities could be found in every corner of the conference room. The types of opportunities have changed over the years and have shifted from mining to a wide variety of fields and industries.
Some vendors say the medical field is growing quickly and will have opportunities for all sorts of people.
“The biggest thing for us is with the Obamacare getting ready to happen, so many people are getting health care for the first time that health care right now is almost a field where we’re always hiring for staff,” Jarod Zelaska of Greenbrier Valley Medical Center said. “We’re always looking for the best qualified professionals to take care of the people that come into our facility. With people getting health care for the first time, we’re busier and busier every day.”
With the medical field growing, those open spots will have to be filled with trained staff. New River Community and Technical College officials say the school has what people need to succeed.
“We do have some two-year degrees in the medical field and we also have certificates as well,” student recruiter Amanda Smarr said. “Certificate programs are for a year, to a year-and-a-half.”
Not every job shown off at the fair needs years of training and some positions can be filled almost instantly. One vendor with the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources says people shouldn’t stay away from applying to a job because of an assumption.
“Education backgrounds may be a hindrance at times because people think they’re not qualified for certain jobs,” program specialist Susan Johnson said. “Rather than looking to see if they are, I think a lot of people automatically rule themselves out of a lot of job openings that they certainly would be qualified to do.”
Almost everyone at the fair had some good tips for landing an interview and making a good impression.
“Be persistent,” said Katie Smith Human Resources Manager at The Resort at Glade Springs. “Also, the first impression is crucial. Especially now, with the job market what it is and there are so many people out there looking. There are people who are over-qualified for a position that normally wouldn’t be considered, but if they present themselves better, and are willing to take that position, then there’s a lot more competition out there now.
“It’s all about the first impression.”
Being prepared helps in the job hunt, too.
“If someone is looking for a new job, they need to really look into a career field that they’re thinking about going into and really try to look and find all of the information about what skills the job requires,” Slone said. “They should try to get into some kind of program that will teach them what they need to know, whether it’s a trade school or a college.”
With all of the talk about a lack of jobs, staff and vendors at the job fair say there are jobs, there just aren’t jobs that people think they can survive on.
“A lot of what I’ve noticed is that, as mining has gone down, to replace a mining job, someone would need two or three average-paying jobs,” Smith said. “A lot of times, depending on the circumstances of their mining position, if they’re on unemployment, they can get more from their previous wages versus working an entirely new job. It’s kind of a vicious cycle.”
One job hunter said the fair helped him in the past, so he showed up to get some help again.
“My experience with the job fair hasn’t been bad,” Alexander Whitfield said. “A few years ago, I found a job with the Citizens’ Conservation Corps. I’ve done a lot of landscaping and stuff, so I’m going to go my usual route and check out the West Virginia Conservation Agency. I’m hoping to maybe expand out into a technology field, so I was aiming for Shentel (Telecommunications).”
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