By Victor Skinner
West Michigan Works! is recruiting local job seekers for a virtual job fair in July, the latest in a series of monthly job fairs and other efforts to connect the unemployed with the area’s in-demand industries.
Throughout the pandemic, West Michigan Works! has hosted job fairs on the third Wednesday of every month, giving local job seekers an opportunity to hear directly from employers in high-demand industries in Muskegon, Ottawa, Kent, Allegan, Barry, Ionia, and Montcalm counties.
The meetings are held over the phone, and “it’s a great way to hear from employers and why it’s a good place to work,” said Brittany Lenertz, West Michigan Works! talent solutions director who oversees job seeker services.
“We typically have good representation from all of our high-demand industries,” she said, noting health care, construction, manufacturing and agribusiness. “In Muskegon, it’s mostly a mix of manufacturing and health care.”
The virtual job fairs started a year ago, but “as with anything right now, we have a lot of employer interest and we’ve not had huge numbers of job seekers,” Lenertz said.
Most of the job fairs have had less than 50 job seekers participate, she said.
“I think it’s pretty reflective of what we’re seeing” in the broader job market, Lenertz said, with employers struggling to find hires. “I think it’s really a complex issue.”
Lenertz noted a record number of Americans quit their jobs in January, likely a side effect of the pandemic and the massive shift to work from home over the last year.
“I think there’s a lot of complicated issues in people’s lives that led to that,” she said. “People can’t find childcare, and when they find it, it’s really expensive.”
“As I talk to people and reflect back on the last year and a half, people experienced something different, and they’re not willing to totally give that up,” Lenertz said. “I think people are looking for ways to continue some of that experience.”
The next virtual job fair is scheduled for July 21, and registration to participate opens on July 13.
“Job seekers need to register on our site, and we have information on what to expect and how to prepare for it,” she said.
The fair involves a call from an employer for a 15-minute conversation, so it’s important for job seekers to anticipate the call from an unknown number and find a quiet place to conduct the interview.
West Michigan Works! also offers “a whole host of services” that can help job seekers prepare for the fair and connect with West Michigan employers. The Muskegon office, located at 316 Morris Avenue, offers interview preparation, help with resumes, career coaches, and paid training for some jobs, Lenertz said.
“If people qualify, we actually fund their training,” she said.