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Employers, Prospects Connect at Ohio Valley Mall Job Fair

photo by: Robert A. DeFrank

Joshua Kibler, left, and Kristian Fleming-Gibson fill out applications with Mark Murphy, business manager with the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers in Wheeling, at the Ohio Valley Job Fair Thursday at the Ohio Valley Mall.

Employment opportunities took center stage at the Ohio Valley Job Fair on Thursday at the Ohio Valley Mall.

“It’s been a fairly steady stream of people stopping by,” Belmont County Department of Job and Family Services Director Jeff Felton said.

“It’s not what we have experienced in past job fairs. It’s just a sign of the times right now,” Mike Schlanz, workforce supervisor at Ohio Means Jobs, said. “I’ve talked to every employer here, and several of them said they found some good applicants. I know I’d like to help every employer and it would be great if everybody hired somebody, but if just a few people get employment out of this, it’s a win.”

He said there were about 105 employers, with a fair balance between returning and new participants. Last summer’s job fair had about 90 participants, and prior to the pandemic there were often close to 120 employers at the tables.

Job seekers and employers in fields ranging from manufacturing and construction, health care, elder care, law enforcement, finance, the oil and gas industry and other areas had a chance to meet.

“There’s a little bit of everything,” Schlanz said.

He added he would contact employers in about two weeks for feedback on hirings from the fair.

“I want to say thanks to Ohio Valley Mall for providing the venue. It’s a good partnership,” Schlanz said.

They were joined by Hope McAfee, workforce supervisor from Ohio Means Jobs of Jefferson and Harrison County and Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act director, there to support the job fair. She said Harrison and Jefferson County will hold a joint job fair Sept. 14 at St. Florian Hall at 286 Luray Drive, Wintersville.

Returning employers and participants at the job fair found some receptive applicants.

Kelly Dierkes, president and business agent with the union Ironworkers Local 549 in Wheeling, was looking for apprentices to apply to the program.

“I’ve been talking to men and women who are interested in the benefits and the pay and the job,” he said, adding he hoped to see at least 50 applicants during the fair. He said this was his second year participating. “Last year was a little bit slow with COVID. We’re a little bit better this year. I’d like to have more, I’d like to see more kids just graduating high school coming and checking this out.”

“We’ve seen a good number of people stopping by. Many of them have been picking up information to give to others. They may be taking it to a spouse or significant other, a son or daughter,” Erikka Storch, executive director of Project Best said. “We have information on all the building trades, apprenticeship programs and all the crafts are looking for apprentices to get involved.”

She added the people who have stopped by were very enthused by prospective work in the building and construction fields.

“If you like to work with your hands, you can feel the satisfaction of a good day’s work,” she said, noting construction was one of the fields that did not feel a heavy hit during the height of COVID-19. “I think several job fairs canceled, but construction didn’t. Construction wasn’t an industry that slacked off a lot.”

“I think it’s a little slower than in years past, but I’m pleasantly surprised with the turnout considering a lot of people are still kind of apprehensive about coming out with COVID,” Tebreigh Hollins, regional supervisor at Fosterbridge In-Home Personal Care, said.

First-time employers at the job fair also looked forward to finding applicants.

Joe Scalise, owner of VRIQ virtual reality educational company, was looking for tech-savvy educators to teach with students over virtual reality. He said circuit work, engineering, dissection, art, and lessons in other fields can be taught through virtual reality. He said he is contracted with the Jefferson County Educational Service Center and visits schools to teach in virtual reality.

“I thought I would definitely give (the job fair) a try,” he said. “I’m trying to bring us into the future.”

Job seekers could be found at the application table.

“Just looking for a job, a career,” Kristian Fleming-Gibson from Washington, D.C., said. “They got a lot of jobs here right now, They’ve got the whole mall full of tables of different companies. If you need a job, this is the place to be. If you missed it, I’m sorry.”

“I’m trying to find a career and a job and get myself all right,” Joshua Kibler, also of Washington, said.

They were both filing applications with the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers in Wheeling.

“There’s a lot of people here. A lot of opportunities for everybody,” Mark Murphy, business manager with the union, said.

Tiffany Scott-Shorts of Glencoe was with her 15-year-old daughter, Aurora Shorts, speaking to colleges, fast food restaurants and other companies.

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