Recapping the Mayor’s Youth Job Fair

  • By: Doug Betts, Business/Education Committee Chairman

It is now a few days after the Mayor’s Youth Job Fair and I can’t help but pinch myself again, it is really over!  I have to say this year was bigger, better, smoother than ever before (at least during the few years of my involvement).  I had promised to tell you some things about how it went… so, where to start?

Many volunteers were there to set up the tables on Tuesday late afternoon.  We had everyone plan on helping with this portion for about 3 hours – but because we had such a great crew of volunteers, this task was knocked out in a little over one hour.

On Wednesday morning I spoke with three young job seekers who started the line outside.  They arrived sometime before I did and had their position at the front of the line locked down at 8:00 a.m. for a job fair that wouldn’t open until 10:00 a.m.  Just before the crowd was welcomed inside, I saw one of the TV crews interviewing them; they made the cut and were on the news that evening.  They exuded confidence, anticipation, had resumes in hand and were well spoken. These were the type of young people this event was all about!

Inside the mall our volunteers were busy preparing handouts, assisting employers with setup, distributing breakfast, coffee and water to the employers.  I had printed the name badges for our volunteers myself so I personally counted the 54 who to help pull this off.  That tally doesn’t even include the many people who helped with preparations prior to the event but unable to be there the day of.  I am still amazed, grateful and humbled at how our community supports the notion of helping young people get engaged in employment.

I happened to glance toward the doors when they were opened for the job seekers to enter.  I have to mention that the doors never were locked, but the building crowd waited patiently until invited in.  In our Facebook pictures you can see what a massive number of young people were waiting outside.  After the doors opened, I saw a calm, orderly mass of youths heading for the employers.  How thrilling!  (Facebook search for “Fresno Mayor’s Youth Job Fair” to see all our photos)

Volunteers at the first table distributed a hand-out for job seekers listing the 44 employers/exhibitors at the fair, most of who came to the event hoping to leave with jobs filled.  I am happy to say that there were even a few last minute additions were not included on this list, but joined us to make the event a success.  There were a few other exhibitors that offered some form of job search assistance.  The backside of the handout had interview tips to review while waiting in lines.

News crews from four TV stations interviewed job searchers, employers and some of our volunteers.  The interviews I did with three of these stations wound up on the cutting room floor, which was just fine with me because the Mayor’s Youth Job Fair was all about these young people getting a jump start on their careers and those who joined to help them. I am thrilled that those who were integral to this event, employers and young job seekers, were the ones that made the airwaves.  I can’t say enough great things about how wonderful they were on screen.

The news media repeatedly asked me how many jobs were filled this year and how many youths were hired after last year’s event.  Unfortunately, I only had anecdotal information to give.  Having a budget of zero dollars unfortunately means we do not have the budget to create the infrastructure to track each employer, job and job seeker.

However, based upon employer registration information and direct conversations with employers, we have learned the following: We had two employers who were looking to hire over 100 people (this does not include Blackbeard’s, although it is common knowledge that they hire a large number of local young people). Several employers listed that they had 20 jobs available and the rest needed fewer employees.  About half of the employers used a method of registration that did not capture numbers so we just don’t know.  I have had employers and parents of young people who told me of jobs filled from the Mayor’s Youth Job Fair.  That sounds pretty good to me.

As I reflect on this very successful event, it occurred to me that what many people probably don’t realize is that a job fair like this is so much more than an easy way to get a job – the truth is that most of the job seekers will leave without an employment offer in hand.  In my opinion, focusing on that fact is wrong.  The true benefit to this endeavor is the fact that every job seeker at any job fair should walk out with an expanded awareness of jobs they didn’t even know existed, knowledge of the quality of fellow job seekers they are competing with, and the experience of giving short to-the-point presentations of their abilities to actual employers.  These elements are critically important to the success of their job search, which usually begins or gets recharged at a job fair.

It is important to consider the emotions many job seekers feel when an event like this is over.  They may feel encouraged or discouraged, challenged, motivated, depressed or thrilled.  Any of those emotions can and should be channeled into driving the job seeker to further action.  If you can’t do that, if you prefer to quit, then perhaps you need to find a way to adjust your attitude for perseverance.  In the future, anecdotes like this about overcoming obstacles can be an ideal way to let your next prospective employer know you can identify shortcomings and make the appropriate changes.

Once again, if you would like to help us seek to improve the workforce in the Fresno area, visit the Business / Education Committee of the Fresno Chamber of Commerce.  We meet at 7:30 a.m. on the Second Tuesday of each month at the Chamber office.

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