Alberto Vega, 20, is tired working for telephone call centers. On Monday, the 20-year-old Caldwell resident came to a job fair sponsored by the Idaho Department of Labor to look for a chance in the booming health care field.
“I’ve done a lot of call center work and I’m looking for something that better matches my interests and my goals,” said Vega, who spoke with confidence and a smile on his face.
The fair features 60 employers looking to fill 1,100 open positions this week. Monday’s session was the first of four at the Department of Labor’s office at 4514 Thomas Jefferson St. in Caldwell, featuring more than a dozen health care employers.
Tuesday features transportation companies, followed by manufacturers on Wednesday and companies looking for clerical, call center and retail employees on Thursday. Each day’s session is 9 a.m. to noon.
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Last year, nearly 700 job seekers surprised organizers of a similar job fair who expected 250 people, said Elizabeth Anzaldua, senior workforce consultant at the Department of Labor’s Canyon County office. She predicts even more people will attend this week’s fair.
Vega, who has studied biology and health care, said he’s interested in dentistry, although he’s still considering his career options. He’s a graduate of Canyon Springs High School with two years of study at the College of Western Idaho. He ran out of money and is looking for a health-care job so he can save some money and go back to school and to get a feel for a job in the medical field.
One of Vega’s stops at the job fair was at a table operated by Progressive Behavior Systems, a Boise company that provides in-home care for clients, including cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping as well as taking them out into the community.
Vega spoke with Zach Bright, one of the PBS recruiters, in a conversation that seemed less stressful than a formal job interview.
The job fair is a good way to meet applicants and establish a rapport before looking over their applications, said Judy Waitley, Progressive Behavior Systems’ program director.
The company has about 40 clients in the Treasure Valley and is looking to double that number in the next year and a half. That means increasing the number of employees, which now total 120. The company has 20 open positions, Waitley said.
She said she was encouraged by the quality of the job-seekers she spoke with Monday.
“It’s been very positive,” Waitley said.
At the next table, operated by MultiCare Home Health & Personal Care Services, Aimey Musgrove, the Meridian company’s client care coordinator, said job fairs are a good way to recruit new workers.
“It helps us put a face to the name by talking to applicants in person,” she said. “We try to find a fit for everybody.”
With a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 3.2 percent statewide in May (the third consecutive month the rate has fallen), it’s a job seekers’ market, Anzaldua said. Canyon County’s rate is 3.3 percent.
“It’s great for the economy, but not so great for employers,” she said.
Several employers said low unemployment has made it more challenging to find qualified workers. They said they weren’t looking just for a warm body, but for someone who is a good fit.
“We want people who can represent the company well and help our clients,” Waitley said.
Wages for positions employers hope to fill as a result of the job fair start at $11 an hour and go as high as $40 an hour for skilled positions in accounting, management, nursing and engineering.
Niculina Bistriceanu, a Nampa resident originally from Romania, came to the job fair to check out the prospects for nurse practitioners. She recently finished her schooling and is preparing for her board exams next week.
“I came here because I wanted to be ready for interviews,” she said.
Katherine Joslin recently completed certified nursing assistant training at the federal Centennial Job Corps in Nampa. The former Vancouver, Wash., resident spent about 18 months at the residential education and vocational training program for economically disadvantaged youth.
Joslin, 20, said she’s excited to be finished with her training and be looking for work. She said she entered the field to be able to help people. She told of one patient she worked with during her clinical skills training who began to cry.
At first, Joslin said, she thought something was wrong. Instead, the tears expressed the woman’s gratitude.
“She was so happy that I was there,” Joslin said.