Thaddeus Pearson recently got an associate’s degree in information technology with an emphasis on network management from Missoula College, but he doesn’t have a job yet.
That’s why he was one of the hundreds of job-seekers who turned out for Western Montana’s Largest Career Fair, hosted by the Missoula Job Service, on Thursday at the Hilton Garden Inn.
“I feel like I’m going to have a lot of leads after this,” Pearson said.
Wolf Ametsbichler, the manager of the Missoula Job Service, said 93 employers and training institutions set up tables this year.
“On average, between 600 and 800 people come through the doors every year,” he said. “We had a couple years were there were fewer employers due to the recession, but we had well over 1,000 job-seekers coming through. It’s a fun event.”
The list of employers looking for workers ran the gamut on Thursday from Burger King to Advanced Technology Group, a local tech company.
Jess Harrell, the program manager for the Montana Conservation Corps, said she's recruiting field crew members for the MCC’s Americorps program.
“It’s age 17 and above, preferably out of high school as our program runs from May 22 till Nov. 3,” she said. “We get youth out into the field, working on trails, opening up trail systems using chainsaws, crosscut, hand tools. We’re camping in the field during that work time and then you come back into town on your days off.”
The program works on all types of public lands, from wilderness areas to Bureau of Land Management property to National Parks and national forests.
“We have positions open in Missoula, Helena, Kalispell and Bozeman,” she said.
People who sign up don’t have to have prior outdoor experience.
“We provide that training,” she said. “For me, it comes down to a willingness to learn and a willingness to work. Being outside and working hard is one aspect of our program. We’re also very civically involved in the community, so getting out and involved within the community with other local nonprofits is a big part of our program.”
Alice Whiteman, the human resources generalist at the Resort at Paws Up in the Blackfoot Valley, said the company hires about 380 workers every summer to do everything from guiding raft trips to housekeeping to bartending.
“About three-quarters of our workers are seasonal, but our employees are all different ages,” she said.
Whiteman said employees can get reimbursed for their commute from Missoula if they carpool with at least on other person, and every worker gets a free lunch on workdays.
Kirby Koke, the store manager for O’Reilly Auto Parts on South Third Street in Missoula, said his company is hiring for everything from counter workers to delivery drivers. He said potential hires don’t have to be auto mechanics experts by any means.
“We provide training,” he said.
Ametsbichler noted that Missoula County’s unemployment is 3.8 percent as of March, the same as the statewide rate. That’s pretty low, as most economists say an unemployment rate of between 4 percent and 4.5 percent signifies a healthy economy. Still, it means that job hunters can afford to be a little bit picky.
For Ametsbichler, the goal is just to connect as many employers with seekers as he can. The main obstacle he hears from many business owners is that it’s hard to find workers with the right skills.
“We just try to do our best and see who walks through the doors,” Ametsbichler said.