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CareerForce hosts new type of job fair in Bemidji

Inspired by Blackduck’s Trunk-or-Treat event, CareerForce of Bemidji hosted a new type of job fair at its parking lot on Monday, Sept. 19.

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Attendees visit with Cole Beusekom and Shelby Worel at the U.S. Forestry Service table during a CareerForce job fair event on Monday, Sept. 19, 2022, in the Westridge Commerce Center parking lot.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI — Committed to hosting an event rain or shine, Bemidji’s Westridge CareerForce put on a new and unique type of job fair in its parking lot on Monday, despite the dreary weather.

Inspired by Blackduck’s Trunk-or-Treat event, employers set up stations with their cars in a casual environment that welcomed anyone seeking a job to walk through and start a conversation.

“We’ve been trying to do a new approach,” said Karin Parker, who’s with CareerForce and helped organize the event. “We’ve done drive-thru job fairs in the past, and we decided we would try this.”

At each of the 30 stations, businesses offered pamphlets with information, bowls full of candy and treats, and an interested person ready to talk about employment opportunities at their company.

“We wanted to give job seekers in the area another opportunity to see what’s out there and meet employers in person,” Parker said.

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Kelly Virden with Bi-County Community Action Programs visits with an attendee during a CareerForce job fair event on Monday, Sept. 19, 2022, in the Westridge Commerce Center parking lot.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

With employers from Bemidji, Bagley, Warroad, Cass Lake and more, people who attended the fair had a wide range of jobs to learn more about and despite the rainy weather, the fair had a good turnout.

“It’s been going pretty well! The weather isn’t what we wanted, but the candidates are still coming out,” said Kayla Schuh, who was at the station for Sanford Health.

Schuh was grateful to be back in person and connecting with potential candidates face to face, something that other employers also echoed.

“It’s definitely better face to face,” said Paula Hoff, with the U.S. Forest Service. “This is a wonderful idea, I just wish the weather was better.”

The unique setting of the CareerForce job fair was also mentioned as a positive. Compared to indoor events, employers and attendees said that having the job fair outdoors was less formal and more conducive to natural conversations.

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YouthBuild Program Advisor Valerie McCroy and YouthBuild participants visit a booth during a CareerForce job fair event on Monday, Sept. 19, 2022, in the Westridge Commerce Center parking lot.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

“You’re able to walk around a little bit more, and it’s more relaxed,” said Shelby Worel, also with the U.S. Forest Service. “It’s a little bit more organic for questions, less intimidating.”

This atmosphere was one of the reasons that Valerie McCroy, program advisor for Bemidji’s YouthBuild Program, brought her students to the event.

“That’s why we’re here today, just bringing them to a job fair to see what’s out there for them,” McCroy said.

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Difficulties hiring

As much as the CareerForce job fair was for those seeking employment, it was also held to help businesses during a time when many of them are struggling to hire and retain employees.

“There’s just so much to deal with right now,” said Allison Beare, who was at the Healthstar Home Health station. “Everyone wants to get employees, I think so many businesses are going through that.”

This ongoing challenge is one of the reasons CareerForce has been focusing on hosting job fairs that have a low entry barrier for employers.

“It’s less expensive than other job fairs,” Parker said, “so we had a good response from employers.”

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Cornerstone employees visit with other participants during a CareerForce job fair event on Monday, Sept. 19, 2022, in the Westridge Commerce Center parking lot.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

The cost for employers to set up a station at Monday’s event was just $40, compared to indoor fairs which can average around $100.

“(This job fair) has been promising, it’s better than others in the past,” Beare said. “We’ve all been focused on trying to hire people, and it’s slowly getting better.”

Despite the weather’s best efforts, Parker considers the job fair a success and there’s a possibility that similar events will be held in the future.

“It’s a great way for employers to get to know the community,” Parker said. “It’s also great for job seekers.”

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Businesses line up for a CareerForce job fair event on Monday, Sept. 19, 2022, in the Westridge Commerce Center parking lot.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer
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Kelly Virden with Bi-County Community Action Programs visits with attendees during a CareerForce job fair event on Monday, Sept. 19, 2022, in the Westridge Commerce Center parking lot.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer
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Businesses line up for a CareerForce job fair event on Monday, Sept. 19, 2022, in the Westridge Commerce Center parking lot.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer
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CareerForce employees work the registration both during a job fair event on Monday, Sept. 19, 2022, in the Westridge Commerce Center parking lot.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer
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Businesses line up for a CareerForce job fair event on Monday, Sept. 19, 2022, in the Westridge Commerce Center parking lot.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

Related Topics: BUSINESSEVENTS
Nicole Ronchetti is a reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer, focusing on local government and community health.
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