More than 530 people who turned up at Wings Event Center for the Career Life Expo discovered much more than a job fair. They discovered hope.
Eighty-three employers and more than 25 community resource organizations served a diverse and steady stream of people looking at hundreds of positions and receiving assistance with employment barriers such as child care, transportation, literacy and language barriers, and more.
In a private area nearby, job coaches helped people polish and print resumes, and prepare for potential interviews before going down to the main expo floor.
“This is all about creating economic stability in the community for those who need it most,” said Matt Lynn, Vice President of Community Impact for United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region. “I think you’ve got a lot of people who have been through job fairs in the past. Hopefully, this was something different for them.”
That was certainly the case for one jobseeker.
“My main goal was to collect some business cards and make some connections,” said the man, who wished to remain anonymous. He not only collected those cards and submitted resumes, but also spoke with representatives from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. He said learned about and plans to attend an upcoming benefits workshop.
“I think the Career Life Expo truly made a difference for many in our community,” said Eric Stewart, Administrator for Michigan Works! Southwest. “I talked to many jobseekers who were encouraged by the opportunities they found. I think the talent pool also exceeded the expectations of employers. I’m expecting a large number of people to be employed when we check back with them in the weeks and months to come.”
Janecia Hunter is another jobseeker who came away with a positive experience.
“I’ve been to a couple of job fairs, and some can be hit or miss,” said Hunter, who was seeking work in manufacturing. “This one exceeded my expectations.”
Kilee Gardner, a recruiting specialist for Advia Credit Union, said she especially appreciated that the expo offered a VIP hour for veterans and people with disabilities.
“We absolutely loved the early access hour,” said Gardner, who typically attends 12-15 job fairs each year. “I’ve never seen that before. It’s a great way to be inclusive. We ran across many diverse people today.”
More than 60 volunteers handled everything from setup and registration to refreshments and teardown. Several of those volunteers were from Advia, which was one of many businesses that expressed interest in returning should the expo be held again next year.
“It’s been a great day,” Gardner said.
“To all of the employers, community resource organizations, sponsors and volunteers who helped make the expo such a success – we can’t thank you enough,” Lynn said.
Find photos from the event on our United Way Facebook page. Feel free to tag and share!