Job fair a sign of economic growth

Springfield-area companies pleased with number, quality of candidates.

Springfield has hosted an increasing number of job fairs over the last two years, but the latest was so successful that employers see it as a sign of an improved economy.

More than 600 people attended the March 13 job fair, which 75 percent of businesses rated a 4 or 5 on a 5-point scale.

Last week, the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce and Job and Family Sources of Clark County revealed the results of a survey sent out to 42 employers in attendance at the job fair. The Springfield News-Sun also called all 42 employers to determine how successful the fair — funded in part by tax dollars and payments from employers — really was.

“They were happy about the number of job seekers,” said Amy Donahoe, the chamber’s director of employer and hiring services. “And the diversity of the job seeker we saw in all regards was nice — diversity in skill set, ethnic background and racial background.”

The chamber collected data from 16 companies that attended. More than 31 percent rated the overall fair a 5, the top score. Almost 44 percent rated the fair a 4, while 25 percent rated it a 3.

Amanda Kincaid, vice president of human resources for Benjamin Steel, said this year’s job fair was unique because of the diversity in candidates. She spoke with people from all across the region, including Dayton, New Carlisle, London and Urbana.

Kincaid talked with more than 125 people at the job fair to fill seven positions. She said a few more have become available since the fair, and she will use the pool of candidates from there.

“”It was the best job fair I’ve ever attended,” Kincaid said. “The quality of candidates was exceptional.”

Benjamin Steel offered position to six candidates from the job fair, four of which accepted. The company is hiring because of growing sales over the last few years, said co-owner Teresa Demana.

“With the recent economy, things haven’t been normal,” Kincaid added.

She said Benjamin Steel typically attends four job fairs a year in various areas, but have been doing fewer in recent years because less have been offered and because the company didn’t need to hire.

Scott Griffith, president and manager of area Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken Restaurants, said the current climate in Springfield is one where a lot of jobs need to be filled and a lot of people are out of work. The unemployment rate rose to 7.6 percent in Clark County in March.

“There have been years past when we did not need to attend job fairs, and I think it’s a sign of the economy and the times and there are jobs that need to be filled,” he said.

Griffith said he ran out of applications at the job fair and ended up hiring two managers. He interviewed about a dozen more people for staff positions.

The Springfield News-Sun received responses from 16 employers who attended the fair. Of those, nearly 69 percent were able to hire candidates, although some would not disclose the exact number.

“For the cost of the job fair, which is pretty cheap, if you hire one person, you’ve made your money back,” said Jay Miller, Staffmark branch manager on North Bechtle Avenue. “I’ll do it again.”

The job fair cost $50 for the employers, which paid for refreshments, said Lehan Peters, deputy director of Clark County JFS and WorkPlus One-Stop Center. It was not enough to cover the cost of putting the event, but Peters was able to get about $4,000 in funding to pay for renting the Hollenbeck Bayley Conference Center and for advertising.

“We can’t use any of our federal, local or state money for refreshments,” Peters said.

Peters said the job fair was well worth the taxpayer money.

Besides the survey, ODJFS investigated a job fair in Dayton to get other ideas. She said for the next job fair, JFS and the chamber plan on reaching out to other areas for resources, such as housing assistance, that can be on site and also serve jobseekers.

Clark County JFS will also support Champaign County JFS when it puts on a job fair May 22. That will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Champaign County Community Center Auditorium, 1512 U.S. 68 in Urbana. Interested employers can call 937-484-1500 for more information. Space is first come, first served.

“We will lend support and deploy staff if we need to,” Peters said. “We have a very strong five-county system that’s very phenomenal.”

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