Missoula’s workforce shortage might be getting a little less acute than in years past, judging by the number of employers who showed up this year to the annual student employment fair at the University of Montana.
“We definitely had more employers last year so I think there are more positions filled,” explained Emily Johnson, the recruiting coordinator with UM’s Career Services. “We’ve kind of seen a little bit of a drop-off in employer turnout recently for some of our employer fairs. I do think people are a little bit more fully staffed now."
However, she said lots of new employers that have never signed on to the career fair before showed up this year.
"Which is really great,” she noted.
Missoula has been dealing with a shortage in the labor force, according to many business leaders, meaning businesses are having to get creative with benefits and pay to attract and retain skilled employees. The UM job fair's lower turnout may just be the exception, however, because the Montana Department of Labor recently issued a report showing there are more jobs than workers in Montana.
The fair took place last Thursday, and about 70 employers showed up. Johnson said most employers are looking for part-time employees, which is perfect for college students. Companies like Walmart were there along with the Peace Corps and several small local organizations like the Montana High Tech Business Alliance. Walmart’s representatives, for example, were trying to entice employees with a starting wage of $11 per hour, extremely flexible scheduling, 401K matching benefits and a cell phone discount.
Johnson said about half of the employers are off-campus and many say they make hires at these types of events.
“So I would say the feedback we’ve gotten from employers is a lot of times they’ll hire on the spot at these things because a lot of times it’s part-time work,” she said. “And so they’re looking to fill up positions pretty quickly. And so if students come dressed professionally with a resume, it’s very likely they’re going to get a job offer. But because again it’s part-time work, so it’s a little less filtered.”
Jessica Stubbs, the talent acquisitions director for Consumer Direct in Missoula, said the in-home health care company is looking to hire a wide variety of positions.
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“We have jobs in program management, customer service, financial analysis, IT work,” she said. “We have a lot of jobs in caregiving. We are an in-home caregiving company, but we have a payroll department, analytics department and lots of administrative jobs so we’re open to all majors. Really we have a lot of open jobs.”
She said the Missoula office is especially looking for IT workers.
Nicholas Beaner, a computer science major at UM, had a lot of employers to choose from because he’s searching for an IT job.
“I know there’s a lot of IT on campus looking for help,” he said. “I’ve just always been good with computers.”
Matt Heisler with the U.S. Forest Service said the hiring process for temporary, seasonal full-time workers for next summer only happens between Sept. 16 and Sept. 30.
“Most start in April or June,” he said. “We’re looking for everything from wildland firefighters to trail maintenance.”
Another hiring event will take place Friday, Sept. 13, at Southgate Mall by the clock-tower area for all workers.
The Missoula Job Service is hosting a fall hiring fair, and there will be over 20 employers there from noon until 6 p.m.