For several years the annual Job Fair at the old Carr’s Mall has been seen as a sign of the changing of the seasons and an opportunity to pursue the changing or beginning of new careers.
According to Rachel O’Brien, Gulf Coast/Southwest Regional Manager for the Alaska Department of Labor &Workforce Development, employers attending this year’s event were eight fewer than last year.
“We don’t have as many employers here as we did last year and we do believe it was due to the downturn in the oil and gas industry, but we did have 52 employers today, we were happy with that because they were looking for workers and represented a wide variety of career paths. We had representatives from our medical community, fishing and processing, forestry, educational community and a cross section of our economic engine,” said O’Brien.
The Aflac duck was even present and looking for representatives.
“In talking with those gentlemen I learned that they have actually been having a hard time for quite a while hiring a sales representative here on the Peninsula, yet he said they have over 60 established customer accounts on the Peninsula and they have been having to fly people from Anchorage to service those accounts and that is preventing them from growing in the way they would like to here. So that’s tough for us to hear that from an employer when our job is to find work for Alaskans,” she said.
The Gulf Coast includes the Kenai Peninsula, Valdez, Kodiak and all areas in between and the downturn is indicative of the entire area she told the Dispatch.
As always the Job Fair was free and open to the public, many of whom brought resumes and were ready to interview for work. The turnout from the public according to O’Brien was on the high side and many folks not out of work but looking to transition to a new career.
“A lot of the employers have built-in job training programs or we can work with folks wanting a job transition to determine whether it’s appropriate to set up a registered apprenticeship where they receive on the job training and attend some classroom or on line training until they get the educational component required for them to be successful for an employer. We are hearing from a lot of employers interested in going in that direction because they get to grow their own employee so to speak,” said O’Brien.
The highest demand locally for workers on the Peninsula seems to be typical of what is happening elsewhere and in the lower 48.
“We are similarly situated as the rest of the U.S. in that the high demand is for all kinds of health care positions from medical assistants to medical doctors and everything in between. As the baby boomer population ages they are creating needs for health care from the next generation,” she said.
The Job Fair is an annual event. However, the Job Center in Kenai works throughout the year to connect employers with jobseekers as well as services to those prepping for work.
“We encourage everyone to use our resources and to work with the staff here not only for their next job, but for their next career because we can help with applying for specific positions, we can talk with you about something that may be your lifelong career and how to get there including financial assistance from the Department of Labor to help take care of the educational piece is likely to be required,” said O’Brien.