The number of people who attended this year’s Waupaca County Job and Career Fair was down, but employers say they saw more people with a higher level of experience and qualifications than they did other years.
“There are less people, but the quality is of a higher caliber. Some people come and go through just because unemployment tells them to, but the people we’re seeing today want to work,” said Jane Holden, who works in sales at Faulks Bros. Construction Inc. in Waupaca.
Faulks Bros. Construction is looking for full-time employees in two main areas. “Dump truck drivers and heavy-equipment operators are the two big ones,” she said.
Holden said the company participates in the job fair every year, regardless of whether or not it has open positions.
That way it has a pool of potential candidates when its busy season hits, including in the sales and customer service areas.
“It’s definitely a plus coming down here. People are more prepped. They’re walking in with their rèsumès,” she said.
Kasey Koplien, of Waupaca, was among those who stopped at the Faulks Bros. Construction booth during the March 10 job and career fair.
He actually went to the Waupaca Recreation Center that day to shoot baskets in one of the gyms.
“As I came in, I was asked if I was here to attend the job fair,” he said. “I wasn’t. I went in the gym and decided to come over and see if I could check things out.”
While Koplien was not looking for a job, he knows of others who are and figured he could get some information for them.
Dave Thiel is the executive director of the Waupaca County Economic Development Corp., and he said that typically, between 400 and 500 people attend the job fair.
This year’s estimate was between 200 and 250.
“We have a small budget for this. We don’t spend a lot on advertising. Fortunately, WDUX is a huge partner for us. They come here and broadcast live and give lots of free advertising. We send out public service announcements to go in newspapers,” he said.
What Thiel heard from the employers who were at this year’s job and career fair was that the event drew people from a larger demographic area, including the Fox Valley.
He echoed the comments made by some of the employers, saying that more “people with better resources and experience were coming through than typically in past years.”
The Waupaca County Economic Development Corp. was joined by the Waupaca Job Center and the Waupaca Area Chamber of Commerce in sponsoring the 2011 Waupaca County Job and Career Fair.
Partners included the Fox Valley Technical College, Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, and Fox Valley Workforce Development Board.
Thiel said the mixture of businesses at this year’s job and career fair was similar to that of previous years.
And, just like the last couple of years, the fair again included other career information.
There were workshops about job search strategies and rèsumès, and also presentations that provided interviewing tips.
Because not as many employers have been hiring in the down economy, those involved in planning the event decided to include those types of workshops, as well as information about going back to school.
Organizers wonder if that is the reason why attendance was down this year, in spite of the fact that more employers were actually interested in hiring.
“There are a lot of people who lost jobs and are going through retraining and back to college,” said Terri Schulz, who is the president of the Waupaca Area Chamber of Commerce.
Thiel said they will have a post-job fair meeting to discuss how this year’s event went. Schulz said those who missed the job fair can check with the job center at Fox Valley Technical College’s Waupaca Regional Center to learn about job openings.
“Unemployment has not gone down as quickly as it normally would,” Thiel said. “My guess is that the typical corporations learn to do more with less and hold off as long as possible (on hiring more employees), because they want to be confident before they make a change.”
Some manufacturers have already gained that confidence and have begun to hire again.
Schulz said there was a diverse group of employers and available positions at this year’s fair, including summer help and full-time positions.
Jolene Nollenberg works in quality assurance at Custom Fiberglass Molding Inc. in Weyauwega, and she said the company has expanded and will be hiring.
Currently, there are 43 people employed there. “We’re going to be hiring,” she said. “We’re not sure how many people, and we’re not sure of the exact date.”
Custom Fiberglass Molding likes to hire and train people in small numbers and will be hiring general laborers.
“No experience is necessary. We’re looking for people who want to have jobs,” Nollenberg said.
The company has been at the job fair before and was at it again this year as a way to get the word out about where it is and what it does.
Attending the job fair for the first time was James Mortensen, of Waupaca.
The electrical assistant has been on call, and for the last year and a half, has been looking for a more permanent position.
He stopped at several booths and was filling out an application when he said, “I’d probably like to get into something in the outdoors. I like being outside.”