4/30/2014 12:05:00 PM Job seekers lacking at Jobs Fair
More than 275 people registered for the Rice Lake Job Fair at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College on Monday, April 28. But many of the 58 employers attending said traffic to their tables was slow.
Ryan Urban Chronotype staff
More than 275 job seekers and 58 employers connected at the Rice Lake Job Fair on Monday, April 28, according to the office of Congressman Sean Duffy, who helped organize the event. Employers expressed appreciation for the event; however, many said job seeker traffic was slow. With last year's event drawing a slightly larger crowd for a quarter of the number of employers, the job fair illustrates a growing workforce concern in the county, said Barron County Economic Development director Dave Armstrong. "I'm hearing it daily: 'I can't find this. I can't find that,'" said Armstrong. "The workforce side of this is what's really concerning for these employers. There's no sense in staying here if they don't have the workforce." Many of the businesses at the event looking to hire were advanced manufacturers, some of the largest employers in the area. "I think there's a lot of competition right now," said Lori Katcher, human resources supervisor at Rice Lake Weighing, which is looking to fill approximately 40 welding, machinist, CNC and engineering positions. She said the company has had to focus more on worker training to fill gaps in the skilled positions. "We've been doing a lot of recruiting because we have trouble finding people," said Samantha Meyer, of Chetek manufacturer Parker Hannifin, which needs two production supervisors, an engineer and a machinist. Other industries are hiring, too, including health care, construction and service industries. Push Inc. is seeking 40 to 50 CDL holders and equipment operators, said company DOT coordinator Peggy Hargreaves. But the Barron County employment rate is at 8.1%, according to the latest data released in March. "That's the biggest thing I'm trying to get my arms around. I know we have the population for the jobs because of he unemployment numbers," said Armstrong. Duffy said he believes there is a skills gap between workers and what employers need, particularly in manufacturing. "Many of them say if you come in with a good work ethic, they will train you," he said. "These are high-tech, high-skill jobs that pay really well." Duffy said excessive government regulation and a poor public perception are also hurting manufacturers. "Many people think manufacturing is dead. But it's not. It's actually growing," he said. Armstrong said employers are having more luck finding entry-level applicants, but still see many candidates who lack basic skills like punctuality, communication and preparedness. Job fair seminars offering to help job seekers find jobs and prepare for interviews were sparsely attended, he said. But Duffy said there are still many good workers looking for good jobs. "This is a good environment where we can match the two," he said. - - - -