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Despite Increase In Online Job Search Platforms, Organizers Say Job Fairs Still Prove Value in North Central Florida

A recruiter from Milliken talks to a job seeker about the company and the positions that are available. (Valentina Botero/WUFT News)
A recruiter from Milliken talks to a job seeker about the company and the positions that are available. (Valentina Botero/WUFT News)

Optimistic attitudes from both job recruiters and job seekers filled up a tiny space on Wednesday at CareerSource North Central Florida.

Some dressed in business casual, others in more casual clothing. All waited to be called into the event.

In today’s tight U.S.A job market, Florida’s unemployment rate has dwindled down to 3.3%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Wednesday's job fair focused on manufacturing, advanced manufacturing, and logistics positions and was hosted by Propel GNV, a partnership between the Greater Gainesville Chamber and CareerSource North Central Florida. The event ran from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

As some job applicants waited to be called, others were taken to the next room where recruiters from a handful of companies awaited. Aspirants were then allowed to roam around, hand their resumes, and ask employers questions about positions that were being offered.

Among the many job seekers at the event was Robert Quinney, who explained that he was going through a big change and was hoping to find a job that would accommodate him in order to raise his family.

“I’m going through a difficult time with a divorce and I have two children,” Quinney said, “and what I’m trying to find is a job with a flexible schedule and prove to myself that I can take care of the kids and work.”

Job fairs are well known across the United States and can be helpful to anyone from young adults to veterans looking for jobs in different fields of work.

“Being able to be face to face with an employer really gives them the opportunity to showcase what makes them valuable to them as a person,” said Talia Pate, associate director of CareerSource North Central Florida.

Although there’s no hard data that supports how often a trip to a job fair leads to employment, Pate believes that there are more valuable experiences that can come from going to a recruiting event, besides getting a job.

“It’s a really great opportunity to practice soft skills, practice meeting people and employers, and practice that they’re putting their best foot forward and learning how to really share what makes them valuable to the employer,” Pate said.

Before job seekers face an event like job fairs, the career resource center also provides them with help on their resumes, placement tests and interviewing skills.

“Coming to the job fair, we have resource personnel from career source that has pointed out different companies to what would be in my area of expertise,” Quinney said.

Still, Craig Smith, 59, was not too impressed with the limited number of employers who came to the job fair.

“They didn’t have as many employers as I wished they had,” Smith said, “and none of them had a position that fit my qualifications at this time.”

Although there weren’t any management type positions at the fair, he still believes that it was a valuable experience for him because it gave him job interviewing experience.

“The more you get a feel for what employers want, the more you can fit that better,” Smith said.

Pate said her organization keeps up a steady stream of hiring events.

“Over 100 recruitment events last year,” Pate said. "Those range from employer recruitment events with one employer who might have many positions open to a job fair like today.”

The unemployment rate in the CareerSource North Central Florida service region, which includes Alachua and Bradford counties, was 2.3% in September 2019. This rate is 0.1% lower than the region’s rate last year.

Companies who come to these events look forward to meeting potential employees and to see what kind of assets they could bring into a company and whether they are a good match.

Recruiters from companies such as Tempforce, Dollar General and Signarama were at the job fair waiting to see what kind of candidates they were going to meet and hoping to find qualified people that matched what they were looking for.

“I think the very first thing (we’re looking for) is hard work and the ability to move the ball forward without precise direction every bit of the way,” Franz Federschmidt, a proprietor with Signarama, said. “That requires thinking, a little bit of self-knowledge and to be able to show up on time.”

Valentina is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.