Last year the Peninsula Job Fair saw about 600 attendees. On Wednesday just before 2 p.m. the fair at the Peninsula Job Center in Kenai was already nearing that number.
With extended hours this year, job center employees expected to well exceed last year’s attendance.
Jackie Garcia, job center business connections specialist, said in past the fair has ended at 4:30 p.m., but the center decided to run the fair until 6 p.m. so area residents who get off work at 5 p.m. can explore other local job and career options.
Rachel O’Brien, employment specialist at the job center, said with fewer reportable unemployment insurance claims compared to last year, the high number of job seekers this year may be due to the center’s early and active campaign efforts to promote the fair.
This is also the second year the job center has partnered with the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District to bring juniors and seniors from Kenai Central, Nikiski Middle-High, Skyview, Soldotna and Kenai Alternative high schools to the fair. O’Brien said this year saw a 50 percent increase in student attendance.
KPBSD counselor coordinator, Sara Moore, said the job center has worked with students to generate resume writing and interviewing skills and the fair ties all of the efforts together for students.
Some students like Skyview Juniors Amanda Lawson and Caitlin Gamble were interested in part-time jobs to make some money after school. Ryan Kimball, a SoHi junior, said he’s looking for a summer job that pays more than minimum wage.
“I just want to make some money over the summer,” Kimball said.
SoHi junior Jeremy Godfrui explored military options at the fair. Before the fair he said he was considering the joining U.S. Marine Corps, but after talking to a U.S. Army recruiter, he is now looking into that branch as an option.
Army Sgt. Aaron Velvick said he talked to more than 20 interested locals — mostly high school juniors — before 2 p.m. at the fair. He said juniors can sign up for the 14-month senior option with the army, if they’re 17 years old, in good standing with their school and have parental consent.
If students choose that option, they are contracted and have a ready plan for post graduation, which can alleviate the pressure many senior year students face applying to colleges or searching for jobs, Velvick said.
With more than 50 employers from a variety of industries — healthcare, oil and gas, construction, commercial fishing, retail, tourism — at the fair, a variety of information about local openings was available to attendees.
Emerald Alaska Inc. had a booth at the fair for the first time. The company, which offers waste management and recycling services, usually sees more business in the summer with oil and gas industry work, Paul Crapps, Kenai facility manager, said. Currently the company is looking for a full-time Class B driver as well as seasonal entry-level for tank cleaners.
The jobs are labor intensive, Crapps said, but sometimes the temporary positions turn into full-time jobs.
Representatives with Schlumberger, a technology supplier, project management and information solutions company in the oil and gas industry, said they have Kenai openings for equipment operators and field specialists as well as positions elsewhere in Alaska.
Colin Bowker, wireline engineer with Schlumberger, said typically the company looks to hire people that are mechanically inclined and have previous oil field experience. He said there is opportunity to move up within the company as well.
“It’s all about what you make of it … You’re kind of in control of your own destiny,” Bowker said.
Aaron Boogaerts, human relations manager for Schlumberger Alaska, said he has seen a good mix of candidates for the positions and collected a stack of resumes from potential employees.
PJ Peik, who moved to Kenai in November from Los Angeles, Calif., came to the fair because he’s looking to work in the oil and gas industry.
He said he currently has a part-time job and the fair is the first opportunity he’s had to seek what opportunities are available in the energy field.
“I’m looking for more of a career,” he said.
Peik, who has a political science degree, said he’s willing to accept an entry-level position with the hope of excelling and moving up in the field.
He said he’s gotten a lot of good information and many of the companies are taking resumes, but most prefer job seekers to apply online.
Peninsula Community Health Services has about 12 openings ranging from physician to medical assistant to billing clerk listed on its website, pchs.org.
Patty Eissler, PCHS director of human resources, said the company’s fall opening of its Behavioral Health facility in Kenai lead to some additional positions.
She said PCHS looks for employees who enjoy working with other people. Interested applicants should learn about the company and be aware of what PCHS does, she said. She also suggested candidates prepare by practicing answers to interview questions and knowing their skills.
“I like people to sell themselves,” she said about the interview process.
Michelle Heinrich, who was laid off in September, came to the fair to see what jobs are available in the area. Heinrich said she has clerical experience and has been receiving good feedback from potential employees.
“This is very beneficial,” she said about the fair.