Friday, April 30, 2021

New job fair aims to match talent with careers


By Ed Pierce

Walt Disney once said that, “You can dream, create, design and build the most wonderful place in the world, but it requires people to make the dream a reality.” Disney probably never imagined trying to hire workers during a global pandemic, but as the summer approaches and Lakes Region businesses aim to be fully staffed, the job market is wide open for prospective employees seeking work.

Maine’s economy is slowly rebounding after a summer of disappointment one year ago as restricted travel curtailed much of the state’s tourism industry and layoffs and closures struck some businesses in the area, courtesy of the coronavirus pandemic. Now with the number of individuals receiving vaccinations growing every day and new reported COVID-19 cases dropping, optimism among Lakes Region business owners is rising for a better summer season than in 2020.

Dahniha Morris builds a sandwich at the Subway Restaurant 
in Windham on Wednesday morning. The hiring outlook for
the Lakes Region is strong heading into the summer and has 
led to the creation of a new job fair to be held from 2 to 5 p.m. 
May 6 at the Windham Veterans Center. More than 21 area
employers will attend the event looking to hire applicants.
To that end, the limit for indoor entertainment venues in Maine will increase to 75 percent on May 24 and outdoor entertainment venues will be able to fully reopen that same day. Also on May 24, retail occupancy limits rise to 75 percent. All of this means more potential customers and opportunities for more businesses to hire help locally.

Assisting businesses in their search for new talent and providing a venue for potential employees to interview with Lakes Region employers is the mission of the upcoming Sebago Lakes Region Job Fair in Windham.

The job fair is being staged by the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce Chamber in partnership with Bonney Staffing and the Greater Portland Career Center and runs from 2 to 5 p.m. Thursday, May 6 at the Windham Veterans Center, 35 Veterans Memorial Drive, Windham.

"Let's face it, hiring for the summer in the Sebago Lakes Region has never been easy,” said Robin Mullins, Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce executive director. “The coronavirus, however, has brought a whole new level of frustration and angst to not only our local business owners, but to potential employees as well.”

For job seekers there are significant concerns about their own health and for many managing childcare or remote learning activities for their children, Mullins said.

“For employers there are concerns that the generosity of stimulus checks and unemployment benefits have deterred some from returning to the workforce,” she said. 

According to Mullins, to turn things around in the hiring process before the summer season arrives, a number of creative and innovative solutions need to be explored.

“Employers need to market themselves like they have never done before, and not only to the consumer, but to potential employees,” she said. “A ‘We're Hiring’ sign is not going to be enough. Businesses have worked diligently to make their workplaces safe for both their customers and their employees. Potential employees need to know there are protocols in place to protect them.”

Mullins said that it also is extremely important for employers that provide good training to new staff members.

“Oftentimes, in our rush to hire people, we don't always take the time to ensure employees are adequately trained. I know it takes more time, but in the end, it is worth it,” Mullins said. “An employee who feels competent in their job is more likely to give good customer service, require less supervision, and stay with the organization.”

The latest unemployment figures for Maine posted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that 4.8 percent of Maine workers were unemployed in March and that’s down from January’s pandemic-record high of 5.2 percent statewide unemployment. It reveals that Maine’s economy is slowly returning and continuing to rebound as more and more people are emerging from pandemic health and social distancing restrictions.    

Across Maine and throughout the Lakes Region, manufacturing; skilled trade, leisure and hospitality; professional services; construction; information, financial and educational-related services all posted increases in jobs in March prompting optimism for the summer as visitors return to the state for vacations, camps and summer excursions.

This has led the chamber and local employers to seek additional ways to meet their workforce needs anticipating additional business over the summer months, leading to the creation of this new job fair.           

“There are lots of positions available,” Mullins said. “When folks initially lost their jobs, many immediately searched for another job, only to discover there wasn't much available. With the lessening of COVID-19 restrictions and the increase in vaccinations, the prospects for jobs have vastly improved.”

Businesses that will be represented at the job fair are a combination of Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce members and non-members. 

The event is free to participate for job seekers and COVID-19 protocols will be in place. Face masks will be provided, if needed. 

Businesses that will attend looking to hire applicants include Portland Pie Windham; ServPro Portland; Securitas, Inc.; Modern Woodmen Financial Services; Hannaford Supermarket in Standish; Dave’s World; Cintas; Windham Parks and Recreation Department; Kris-Way Truck Leasing; and Bonney Staffing.

Other employers attending the job fair are Poland Spring (Nestle Waters); Sigco; The Driving School; Westin Portland Harboview Hotel; Tyson Foods; Christmas Tree Shops; Bristol Seafood; Krainin Realty; Corning, Inc.; Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office; and Portland Housing Authority.   

Potential employees should not pass an opportunity to meet with local employers in the Sebago Lakes Region searching for the best candidates to fill full-time and part-time seasonal and permanent positions at the job fair, Mullins said.

Be proactive and ask lots of questions,” she said. “There are many great employers in our region. Go find the one that is right for you.” <

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