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It’s the Fair Thing

Traditional job fairs are saving companies time, effort and money

Whether you're a business owner with 25 positions to fill, or two positions to fill, the Internet has truly transformed the hiring process.

Thanks to websites like Craigslist and CareerBuilder, it's now easier than ever to let the world know you're hiring. However, as powerful as cyberspace is, there's one form of workforce development that can't be found online.

"The job fair… as a business, you can't beat it because of the personal interaction," said Randy Bunn, a transportation router at United National Foods Inc. (UNFI) – a company that supplies all-natural and hormone-free food products to retailers across the region through its distribution center in Ridgefield.

"You're actually meeting the people that may be applying for positions within your company. You can sit down and talk to them for a little bit and tell them you are here. You can show the community that maybe the job market isn't as bad as everyone believes."

With 10 positions to fill, UNFI was just one of 28 businesses on hand at Clark College earlier this month for a veteran-focused job fair. Other employers in attendance included Bonneville Power Administration, Boeing, Insitu, Clackamas County, Portland Police Bureau, Coca Cola and Legacy Health System. Organizers at the event called it a huge success.

"So much of the job market right now involves submitting an application online, then it vanishes and you never see it again. This is real human contact here." said Pam Brokaw, executive director of Partners In Careers, co-sponsor of the event. "Business is about relationships. So why wouldn't employers seeking qualified applicants want to make things personal?"

Even the Internet companies that specialize in workforce development online can't help but recognize the value in traditional job fairs. In 2006, Monster Worldwide Inc. (Monster.com) announced a strategic relationship with National Career Fairs, one of the largest producers of recruiting events in the country.

"Providing employers and job seekers with effective, relevant opportunities is becoming increasingly important as the labor market continues to tighten in many industries," said Diana Nicholson, senior vice president of consumer products for Monster.

In a press release, Monster said the opportunity to meet candidates face-to-face in one location can reduce the time, effort and cost of recruiting. The company also explained how job fairs can reach candidates who may not use online resources to find their next job.
Veteran family assistance coordinator Roxeanne Boosé attended the November 4th job fair at Clark. She said the value of such an event is immeasurable because it allows job seekers to touch base with multiple employers in a central location.

"It's a real boost for our mentality right now. So many people are depressed when it comes to their job search," said Boosé. "This brings new hope and aspirations to everybody."

Nearly 500 job seekers turned out at the November job fair, the benefits of which go far beyond the numbers.

"I think job fairs are great because it's easy for people in this economy to get discouraged," said Bunn. "They go through the advertisements in the paper and see very limited postings. But at a job fair you get a high concentration of businesses that really are looking to employ citizens of the community."

Brokaw was quick to echo that statement.

"We often hear on the news that there are no jobs. For someone looking for work, that can be pretty disheartening. But job fairs like this create hope," she said. "Here you have real businesses, real jobs and real business growth."

That display of growth is something Brokaw hopes will have a ripple effect on the area's workforce development.

"Part of having a strong business is being comfortable with hiring and investing. When that starts happening, the economy gets better."

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