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Fair aiming to link workers, jobs

FAIRMONT — The MinnesotaWorks.net website lists 340 full-time and part-time job openings within 30 miles of Fairmont. For many months, labor and employment reports have revealed a shortage of workers, but is the situation really that dire?

“Yes,” said Connie Hines of the Minnesota Workforce Center in Fairmont. “The average unemployment rate for the area last year was 3.7 percent. That’s a very low rate.”

On the positive side, the demand for workers has resulted in wage growth. Information from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development four weeks ago indicated that in the southwest region of the state, where Fairmont is located, the median hourly wage offer was $12.97.

The intense need for workers has prompted the Workforce Center to sponsor the Fairmont Area Job Fair from 1-4 p.m. May 10 at Five Lakes Centre in Fairmont, the first such event in three years.

“Our goal is to align workers with good jobs and to assist businesses in finding much-needed workers,” Hines said.

Joining Hines in organizing the event are Workforce Center staff members Laurie Anderson and Tiphanie Izen.

More than 70 employers have been invited to participate in the job fair, and about 20 already have committed to participating. Health care, ag, construction, retail and industrial businesses, as well as others, will be represented.

“That number is going to change. There’s more businesses being added all the time,” Anderson said.

“The job fair is for students as well as adults. This is the first time we’ve included students,” Hines said.

“This job fair is unique in the fact that we’re also trying to target employers that will hire youth too,” Izen said. “It will be good for high school-age students and college kids that are home. They can get summer employment or part-time employment. They could end up getting a job that would last them through the school year.”

Some people may be apprehensive about attending the job fair. Maybe they have never been to such an event, or perhaps it has been a while since they have been job hunting. The Workforce Center staff is ready to help through the entire process.

“If you’ve never been to a job fair or you have but you still want to prepare or talk about getting your resume together, we can help,” Anderson said. “They will have one-on-one with somebody assisting them.”

No appointment is necessary.

“Just walk in,” Hines said. “When people walk in here, (staff) helps them — a lot. Some really good workers don’t know how to do online applications. They might have a wonderful skill set, but they haven’t looked for work in 20 years. Suddenly, they need to apply online or upload a resume.”

The Workforce Center hours at the mall are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays, and the staff encourages job-seekers to come in as soon as possible.

“If they’re planning ahead, they’re not going to be so flustered and rattled,” Anderson said. “We have the resume and the cover letter references. Then, after the interview, you should do a thank you card, and we have those here too.”

“All of our services are free. Even if they want to print out 25 copies of their resume, there’s no charge,” Izen said.

The tools the team uses to help job applicants prepare are the same whether it’s a high school student looking for a first job or someone who has been in the workforce for many years.

“All of our information is going to be helpful no matter what level you’re at as far as your employment,” Izen said.

With students being invited to the job fair, the Workforce Center staff is offering extra support for the youngest job seekers.

“A lot of high school-age kids don’t realize, when they’re going to join the workforce, that they have skills that you can put on a resume,” Izen said. “You can do a skills-based resume to sell yourself and make you look employable. There’s a lot of things that will sell an employer.”

She mentioned extracurricular activities and organizations, which could indicate event planning, or being on a sports team, which demonstrates commitment, the ability to take direction and work together.

Ten years ago, when unemployment was 9 percent and employers were receiving 50 applications for a single job opening, Hines heard the state demographer predict a labor force shortage in a few years.

“I could not believe what he was saying, but here we are,” she said.

Businesses already committed to the job fair so far include Southern Plains Education, Valero Renewable Fuels, Palmer Bus Service, Avery Weigh-Tronix, Mathiowetz Construction, Heartland Senior Living, Community Options and Resources, Aventure Staffing, Wells Concrete, Hugoson Pork, Fairmont Foods, Miller Sellner, TBEI, Mayo Clinic, Doherty Staffing, Nortech Systems, Corn Plus, Kwik Trip, Vertical Limit, HitchDoc, REM and Continental Carbonic.

Employers or job-seekers who would like more information about the job fair may call the Workforce Center at (507) 235-5518.

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