Article by Kiersten Chartier
There’s an active tornado watch and a line of hundreds of people out the door. Inside, there’s a flurry of activity as 28 employers greet 379 job seekers over the several-hour span. Upstairs, classes are packed as attendees learn insider tips on applying to government jobs. This isn’t your typical job fair.
A group of workforce centers organized the June 19th Government Job Fair at Mile High Station, where we invited the public to come meet government contractors and county, city, state, and federal agencies with open positions. And we didn’t get your typical low turnout. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Colorado’s May 2018 unemployment rate was 2.8 percent, which is below the current national average—and far, far below anything seen in decades past. This number tells us that more Coloradans are at work than ever before—and not attending job fairs. As the market’s been making up ground since the Great Recession, workforce center staff have seen overall trends of lower attendance at events like this. As a result, employers have had to adapt their recruitment methods to an ever-shrinking candidate pool, and in-person events provide managers with a chance to be the face of their organization as they learn about potential applicants. Demetrius Parker, the Talent Acquisition Manager for Jefferson County, appreciated both the number and the quality of the candidates at this event, remarking, “I saw a lot of new faces, which means a diverse hiring pool.”
Helping employers tap into every possible talent pool is so vital that we’ve even created a statewide initiative named the same; Talent Pool is a process whereby we earmark job-ready individuals so that we can quickly connect them with open jobs. Here in Jefferson County, where the self-sufficiency wage for a single person is $15.72/hour, jobs paying at or above that are in high demand. To help give applicants a leg up in the process, I always let Demetrius know when a Talent Pool member applies for a county job. Since he knows these individuals have been prescreened and remained in regular contact with us, Demetrius passes that information along to the relevant recruiter. He’s even informally lent us a new tagline: “Talent Pool—it takes away the worry.”
The June 19th job fair also provided an added degree of connection for the job seekers, as Talent Pool members and veterans were allowed early entrance. Talent Pool member Amber Garrett thought the additional time was helpful, saying, “[One recruiter] took the extra time to pull up a job and she said that she starred my resume.” Similarly, Deneen Pecha remarked on the setting’s advantages, including learning more about the different interviewing processes, and describing the employers in general as “more open and up front.” While low unemployment would seem to suggest that job seekers have the upper hand in this market, factors like the skyrocketing costs of housing and childcare are driving more people than ever towards jobs with competitive pay and benefits. In this changing landscape, it’s crucial to meet the job seeker where they’re at, and government jobs can provide the security they’re looking for. Greg McBoat, a data expert and Talent Pool Coordinator for Adams County Workforce & Business Center, said that’s the rationale for the Government Job Fair. “We chose to highlight government jobs for this regional event to work to meet the needs of the most people,” he said. Moreover, “nearly one in five workers in Colorado work in government jobs—[making government] larger than any other major industry sector,“ he added. Similarly, workforce centers can support employers who are paying lower wages by helping them outline career paths within their industry.
Statewide, workforce centers like Greg’s and mine exist to build bridges between employers and job seekers within our respective counties. We receive public funding that enables us to serve our communities at no cost to businesses or residents, and we provide many different services to each. Working under the umbrella of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, each workforce center then partners with its local county’s government to meet the unique needs of that community. From there, regional collaborations like job fairs empower us to consolidate all these resources into a unified effort that maximizes impact on employers like the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing (HCPF). “[We] found the fair to be a huge success this year; dozens of job seekers submitted resumes and were directed toward a variety of critical positions at the Department including financial analysts, customer service representatives, accountants, pharmacists, and more,” said HCPF’S Rates and Payment Reform Division Director Shane Mofford in an email. “Of note, the Department even connected with a director-level position candidate. Given the difficulty of finding qualified candidates for senior positions, this find was a testament to the resounding success of the Government Job Fair this year.”
At a time when there’s not as much employment security as the statistics might suggest, it’s important to be the employer who knows how to attract top talent, and the candidate who knows how to get in front of them. We have so many ways to connect a skilled workforce with meaningful employment, and whether you’re a job seeker or an employer, we would love to hear your ideas on expanding our collective efforts. If you would like more information on events like these, please follow this link for how to contact your local workforce center: https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdle/wfc.