Unemployment low, but job fairs still popular

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Unemployment numbers are at record lows, but the Pikes Peak Workforce Center’s spring job fair had a 30 percent increase in job hunters over the year before.

PPWFC officials expect another increase at the center’s Sept. 21 fall job fair at the Hotel Eleganté.

A recent mini job fair specifically designed for financial service workers attracted 800 prospective candidates.

Many of those folks are not among the unemployed, however, said PPWFC Executive Director Lisa Rice. Many are just looking to improve their lot in life, whether that means a more desirable occupation or more money.

“It’s the employees’ market,” Rice said. “If you’re underemployed and you want to move up, now’s the time for you to be able to do that. It’s not surprising for me to see we have some people with financial services backgrounds wanting to better themselves and move up.

“But it’s kind of like robbing from Peter to pay Paul. We haven’t really replaced that need with another person; we’ve just moved them from one business to the next business. And we don’t know how many people are working two or three jobs to make ends meet and are looking to get one good job.”

What is certain is that many employers in the Pikes Peak region — where unemployment is at 2.5 percent, slightly lower than the national mark — are actively seeking workers.

“The signup for employers at our spring job fair happened in record time,” said PPWFC Public Information Officer Dean Miller. “The Eleganté can only safely hold so many. Because of the shortage of talent and all the employers looking for workers, we didn’t get cancellations.”

Mark Pohlman, senior technology recruiter for SNI Technology, said he’s been to all the PPWFC job fairs the past four years.

“We’re a technology staffing company that represents 50-plus companies,” Pohlman said. “There are lots of people showing up at the job fairs and many are looking to better their careers. I’d say it’s a good mixture of unemployed and employed people.”

Miller said 1,369 people were looking for jobs at the spring event, up from 947 in 2016. The 2015 spring job fair attracted 1,534 folks while the 2014 fall fair lured 1,844 people to the Eleganté.

“We’ve hired eight to 10 people the last four years,” Pohlman said. “It’s hit or miss, but we get a lot of people in our system at the job fairs who might fit what we need later on. We’re specifically focused on IT, but we’ll talk to anybody who is there looking.”

Rice said the workforce landscape is excellent for prospective professionals.

“If you’re a professional and you want to be working, you should be working,” she said. “The older professional may have a little bit harder time, but we can help them brush up that resumé.”

Rice said businesses have a tendency not to hire older workers, but need to overcome that prejudice.

“That is nothing new; it’s been around for eons,” she said. “What we have now is a crisis in skilled workers, and businesses have to open their eyes and realize that someone in their 50s is going to be there, they have a work ethic, they’re going to be loyal. There have been many studies that prove older workers don’t necessarily come with more health issues, which has been a myth in the past.”

AN Employees’ market

Rice said job-hopping is common, especially when money is the issue.

“People jump from one job to another for 25 cents [more] an hour,” she said. “It’s this employees’ market and they can decide where they want to be. Once they find the right fit — so it’s got the right culture, the right pay, they’re fitting in with the team and they’re able to do what they do best every day — they usually stop that kind of jumping around. Another quarter isn’t going to change what the environment’s like.”

Rice said health care leads the pack in hiring needs in the Springs, but there is also a shortage of teachers.

Pamela Mireles is manager of recruitment for UCHealth Services, including locations in the Springs.

“I’d say we get a handful of hires at each [PPWFC] job fair or a good pipeline of candidates and we do our best to attend all or most of them,” Mireles said. “A lot of those people are already employed but looking for different or better jobs. We do have a lot of people moving to health care, it seems.”

Mireles said registered nurses are almost always needed, along with medical assistants. She noted that the health care industry also offers jobs in marketing, human resources, information technology and hospitality, which includes housekeeping and cooks.

“We’ve done a few nursing job fairs of our own in Colorado Springs,” Mireles said. “I’d say those were moderately successful. We’re always recruiting locally as well as nationally.”

Pohlman said employers can’t be too picky these days.

“If they like a candidate, they’d better hire them,” he said, “before somebody else does.”

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