Kristen Welker is proof that attending the annual Employer and Career Expo pays off.
Two years ago she attended the event at the Douglas County Fairgrounds as an unemployed job seeker. She had been laid off from a medical clinic. At the expo, she connected with the Roseburg Fred Meyer store, she interviewed and was hired. Today, she is the Fred Meyer fuel center lead and assists with human resources.
Wednesday she was back at the expo, talking to job seekers, accepting resumes and explaining how to apply online.
“It works, it really does,” Welker said of taking the time to attend the expo and to make connections with employers.
Welker said she had collected 20 resumes from job seekers and had encouraged numerous others to apply online.
“It’s Douglas County and a lot of people are looking for work,” Welker said. “People want to work.”
Debbie Fitchett, manager of WorkSource Douglas Employment Department, said 346 job seekers registered at the expo’s front table and 53 students, mostly from Roseburg and Camas Valley high schools, attended. There were also several students from the Wolf Creek Job Corps Center near Glide. They multi-tasked, helping with set up and take down for the expo and in between checked out job possibilities.
On the other side of the tables were 32 employers, six service organizations and four veterans organizations.
“I talked to a few employers and they told me they were pleased with the quality of the applicants,” Fitchett said. “The people who do show up here are serious about finding a job.
“The expo just gives job seekers the chance and the practice of talking to someone face to face,” she added. “That’s important experience.”
Quinton Lewis, a 19-year-old from Riddle, was doing exactly that, visiting several of the employer tables. He had talked to Seven Feathers Casino Resort in Canyonville about its chef program and about food services jobs. He also talked with representatives of McDonald’s, Fred Meyer and Home Depot and planned to turn in applications with each of them.
“I’m leaving with confidence,” Lewis said. “I definitely plan to do a follow up in person, to make an appearance at those places. I’ve never had a real job, just house work and yard work. I just want a job.”
At the other extreme is Ted Mickowski, a 57-year-old who has plenty of work experience. But he is planning to retire from his ferry boat captain position in a couple of months and move to Roseburg where his family has already purchased property in the Garden Valley area.
“I’ve had a couple satisfying careers,” said Mickowski, who explained he’s also worked as a biologist.
He said he’s not discouraged by the unemployment rate or depressed job market in Douglas County.
“I don’t let things bother me,” he said. “I think there are always opportunities if you’re willing to hustle, to work hard. I think I can do anything. It’s our desire to live here. My wife and I love it here.”
Mickowski said he made several contacts at the expo and had gotten a few more addresses to check out websites.
Frosty Kjensrud, 33, said he had two or three leads on jobs. He said he was looking for janitorial or maintenance work. He was encouraged and pleased to line up an interview with McDonald’s.
The employer representatives said there was a good flow of people through the 4½-hour expo. Sandy Wertz, a Roseburg financial adviser with Edward Jones Investments, said she had seen more professional looking people than a year ago when she saw more sweatshirts and T-shirts.
“It’s been a much better group of individuals than the last two years,” Wertz said. “The two strongest candidates we talked to were college graduates, one from Oregon and one from Oregon State. There’s definitely been some quality people come through this year. We’re looking for a couple administrative assistants, and we’ve talked to a couple good candidates.”
At a neighboring table, Don Cook of Express Employment Professionals said he had had many good, solid conversations with people. He said the staffing business had 18 job openings on Wednesday, and it was just a matter of finding the right person with the right personality or experience or both.
At the McDonald’s table, Mindy Bean, the manager of the Roseburg Stewart Parkway restaurant, said the company was hiring in anticipation of increased business during spring break and into the summer months. She said she had talked to some good high school kids, some Umpqua Community College students and some older people who had lost their previous jobs due to downsizing and layoffs.
“We’ve actually seen a way less younger crowd today,” Bean said. “People are looking to start a new job, a new career. A job is a job.”
Wednesday’s eighth annual Employer and Career Expo was organized by the Oregon Employer Council Douglas County, a partnership between Oregon employers and the Oregon Employment Department
Fitchett encouraged job seekers who missed the expo or who want to follow up on a lead to contact the WorkSource Oregon Employment Department at 846 S.E. Pine St. in Roseburg or by calling that office at 541-440-3344.
• News-Review business reporter Craig Reed can be reached by calling 541-957-4210 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.