Dickinson job fair sees increase in people looking for work
With a resume on hand, Wallace Wright walked from booth to booth, shaking hands with people and trying to find a job for himself in his new town.
"I figure if I throw enough hooks in the water, I might catch a fish," he said.
The Mississippi native and military veteran, who had been living in Fargo, was visiting a friend in Dickinson a month ago and decided to stay here.
"I'm here now. I was born and raised in Mississippi, a real small town, so this is more my speed," he said. "I was in Fargo. So this is more like home. ... Not too crowded, a bunch farming and open spaces."
Now that he has found a place to call home, he has to find a job.
Twenty-seven booths lined the Biesiot Activities Center concourse on Tuesday afternoon, all willing to give him the opportunity to find a career with them.
The Multi Industry Job Fair hosted by Job Service North Dakota had around 430 people interested in the job opportunities walk through the door in five hours—an increase of 100 more people than last year.
In contrast to past years, this job fair had fewer oil companies in attendance. However, Urlacher said there are still opportunities for those interested in employment.
"Last year we had a few more employers, but we still have jobs available in the area and the employers that are here are looking to hire, and we've always been multi-industry," she said.
Oil and gas, retail, fast food, construction and health care industries were represented at the job fair.
Wright was one of 30 veterans who used their designated hour from 1-2 p.m. to navigate the job fair before it was opened to the general public.
The job fair opened the doors for a designated one hour to only veterans before opening to the general public. Mary Urlacher, customer service office manager of Job Service North Dakota, said it was important for them to get one-on-one time with the employers before everyone showed up.
"We do a priority for veterans because we are federally funded," she said. "We want to have a special hour set aside for them so that they have priority. If they so choose to come this first hour they have they the employers to themselves."
Jordan Syth and Daniel Gobin, veterans and friends from Idaho, came to the event together for different reasons.
Syth was "looking at possible opportunities for employment." Gobin already has one job, but it's not enough.
"I've been working in the oilfield for about four or five years now and just the money flow isn't what it used to be," Gobin said. "(I'm) trying to make up the difference (with a second job)."
Gobin said the job fair was nice because he didn't even know most of the places were hiring.
They both agree they prefer the setting of a job fair over sending their resumes online.
"You can actually talk to people," Gobin said.
"It's way more effective anyway," Syth added.
Syth relocated from Idaho two days ago looking for a better economy and came to the event in an attempt to get a foot in the door.
"(I hope to) just to find positive leads for employment, to find something that is actually going to be beneficial," he said.
Visiting with employers
Zach Jahner, who works in human resources at Baker Boy, said he noticed the difference.
"Last year we probably had seven or eight oilfield companies that were right with us and now we don't," he said.
Baker Boy is also feeling the difference in the economy and has less jobs to offer.
"A couple of years ago, we may have had 10 or 15 openings, whereas now we may have two," he said. "It's just a lot different of an environment than it used to be."
Doug Jilek, vice president of human resources at TMI Systems Design, said he has also seen a lot of applications coming through their company because of the layoffs in the oilfield.
"I'm just happy to be here to let people know that we are looking for positions because I don't think people realize, oh yeah, there are jobs," he said.
He said he wants those people to get jobs and stay in the community.
"Some have established homes here and are willing and hoping to look at any opportunity to stay here. Some people, of course, are making their choice to go home."
Jilek said even if they don't hire anyone they talked to at the job fair, it's important for him to let potential employees know TMI in the community.
"If we can't hire anybody, at least we are out there giving awareness that we are here in the community," he said.
Jilek said TMI has seen a lot of applications in the past few months come through its office from oil layoffs and at events like the job fair.
"I have a line in my office that it's not about the destination, it's about the journey," he said. "And I'm trying to find out where they are in their journey—especially if they are coming off being laid off—or if they want to stay in this community. What are you looking for?"
Tracie Wallenberg, a field recruiter for the U.S. Postal Service, said she has also noticed more applications coming in, though she's not sure it's because of the oil industry's slowdown.
"I don't know if that fluctuates with the economy or people looking for something different," she said.
Wallenberg, like other employers at the job fair, said she wanted to get information to those who may be interested in the Postal Service, but might not know where to start.
While some of the employers don't have many available positions, Innovative Basement Systems in Fargo doesn't appear to be struggling with the same dilemma .
Ben Warren, the company's North Dakota branch manager, said he was at the job fair because they need employees.
"We're booming and we need good help," he said.
Innovative Basement Systems had representation last year at the job fair and hired three individuals as a result.
Though the company is based on the other side of the state, Warren said that didn't deter him from being at the event.
"I think things have slowed down here and people are looking for work and good opportunities," he said.
While companies came from outside of Dickinson to try and find employees here, Urlacher said the job fair will end up helping the community.
"It's a positive for people looking for work, a positive for companies ... because it gives them an opportunity to see more people all in one place," she said. "Somebody may not consider a company until they meet with them and say, 'Oh, it's a good fit,' or not even realize they had that opening."