High school staff members took it upon themselves to be the bridge between their students and local businesses in need of employees and say the response has been phenomenal.
R.D. Parker Collegiate will host a job fair on the afternoon of Sept. 28 and the organizers say the response from businesses and other organizations has shown that the demand for workers bodes well for students seeking employment.
“I just thought it would be a good connection for the community to have because it didn’t seem like we had something like it,” says Jeff Paradis, a P.E. teacher at the school who noticed over the summer and earlier that companies seemed to be having difficulty attracting enough workers.
He wasn’t sure at first how businesses would react to the idea of a high school job fair but once Safeway responded positively to invitation, the initiative gained steam.
Though the demand for workers appears top be higher than the supply right now, not just in Thompson but throughout Canada and the world, it can be tough figuring out how to get your first job, says RDPC guidance counsellor Courtney Beauchemin, who Paradis recruited to help organize the job fair.
“A lot of kids just don’t think they they qualify for a job,” she said. “They don’t think that they’re good enough for a job so it’s tricky to try to encourage them to apply. I think this is a good way for us to just bring people to us and show them, hey, you could get this job, you’re just as good as anyone else to apply for this career and job or go to school for this.”
Given the technology-focused world that we are all living in and the recent experiences of students being isolated during the remote learning periods of the COVID-19 pandemic, walking into a business and asking to speak to someone about a job can be daunting.
“Anxiety is a big thing,” Beaucheamin says. “A lot of our kids are scared to go into the community and have a conversation. Having them in the building definitely takes off all that pressure.”
The job fair is divided into two sections. The first part, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., is for students, who will get time ahead of the event to develop and print resumes that they can hand out at the job fair. From 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., the event will open up to the general public.
“We know it’s not just high school students that these companies are looking for,” Beauchemin says. “We just thought it was a good opportunity to open it up to more than just our student body.”
Bringing employers into the high school not only puts them in front of potential workers, it also helps students and the public see how many options there are for employment or careers in Thompson.
“I’ve lived here my whole life and some of these companies I didn’t even know existed in Thompson,” says Beauchemin.
The job fair is also an opportunity for the school to provide its students out-of-the-classroom learning that provides a skill most people will need in their lifetime: the ability to find a job.
“It’s good if we can expose them to more real-life opportunities, real-world situations,” says Paradis. “Even if they come to the job fair with no intention of getting a job, just to meet employers, shake a hand, make eye contact, discuss wages, expectations for employment, anything like that, that’s vital, vital knowledge come later years.”
With industries ranging from hospitality to education to policing experiencing difficulties finding enough workers right now, using tactics like job fairs and hiring events that put employment opportunities in front of people is taking its place alongside the more passive strategy of just waiting for applicants to show up on their own. The Northern Manitoba Sector Council is hosting a job fair at the Thompson Regional Community Centre on Oct. 20 from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. And on the same day as the RDPC job fair, representatives from the North West Company’s recruitment team will be at the Best Western Hotel in Thompson, hosting a hiring event for Northern and NorthMart stores throughout northern Canada. The company says it frequently used similar events to find workers prior to the COVID-19 pandemic but that it hasn’t had one in Thompson for quite a while.
“We are glad to be back on the road,” said North West Company media co-ordinator Ellen Curtis. “It has been about 10 years since we’ve been in Thompson and are optimistic about our upcoming visit, as Thompson is a hub for the north. We find that getting out and personally connecting with job seekers is an effective way to attract talent. All who are interested in serving customers are welcome; in particular, we are hoping to connect with members of the Indigenous population who may want to relocate back to their communities.”