Ryan Preece visited a job fair in Owen Sound Thursday with hopes of finding more than just a job.
He said he moved to Owen Sound from Kitchener because houses were cheaper by half two years ago. But COVID-19 concerns these past two years limited his job search.
He has a job in security and was checking out the job booths, seeing what was available. He had no specific job in mind.
“Anything that looks like meaningful work. I’m tired of doing jobs. (I’m) just looking for something I can grow with and, at least enjoy,” he said. “I’m not too big on the whole money thing, as long as I’m happy in my workplace, that’s enough for me.”
Within a half-hour of the doors opening to the job fair at the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre, growing numbers of people were coming in. Booths were set up in two meeting rooms, not in the arena as in past years.
There were about 50 employers and employment-related services represented. There was a variety, including roofing, accounting, fast-food, health-care and manufacturing, with seasonal to full-time work offered.
A similar job fair in Hanover attracted about 100 job seekers and featured a group of employers different from those in Owen Sound. About 28 employers had booths in Hanover.
Meaford’s job fair will take place April 5 at the Meaford and St. Vincent Community Centre, from 2 to 6 p.m. A different group of employers will be there.
Job seeker Tania Walker has seasonal work at a motel and lives at Sauble Beach right now. She said work renovating cottages drew them here. She’s originally from Richmond Hill.
“Maybe just something more stable, more hours” would be nice in a job, she said, though she was open to working two jobs if they could be co-ordinated.
Since she’s new to the area, the job fair was Walker’s starting point for her job search.
At the Hanover job fair, job seekers were of all ages and about half were employed, said Heather Rourke, who works for YMCA Employment Services, which organized the fair with Grey County staff.
She said it’s usually under-employed or unemployed people or part-time employees looking for more hours in a second job who come out to the fairs. “Employers were very happy with the turnout and the quality of applicants” in Hanover, Rourke said.
Y job developer Chris Barry said a lot of employers have told him they appreciate being able to meet potential employees face-to-face, given COVID-19 discouraged it before.
As for job seekers, many aren’t comfortable applying for work online, and not just older people who may not be comfortable with the technology, he said. “Just overall, people miss people. I think that’s the biggest takeaway that we’ve had for two years.”
Barry noted this economic region has the second-lowest unemployment rate in the province, so employers are hunting for workers, and the job fair was as good a place to get back out from under COVID-19.
“Overall, we’ve got a good spectrum of entry-level positions, up to some good trades, seasonal employment,” and employers, particularly in busy health care and manufacturing, don’t have enough workers.
Owen Sound Gardens Retirement Residence, for example, was looking to hire for 30 to 40 positions. Executive director Anne Howatt said the home will open June 1, in its new building at 1545 14th St. E.
That’s a lot of people to have to find in a competitive job market.
“I think there’s a lot of people that are looking to start with a new business on the ground floor,” she said. “It’s a fresh new building” and is like young families moving into a brand new neighbourhood.
“Everybody wants to make new friends. Everybody’s open to new ideas, to making new relationships, new friendships.”
Ryan Preece, the job seeker, sounded like he was feeling a little like that, as he walked around the job fair.
“I’m actually impressed with the turnout here. I thought it was going to be a lot smaller. It’s kind of exciting to see some bigger companies and stuff. I hope it gets really busy here.”