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Industry-specific fair a first for Job Service

Hotel and motel managers, who have struggled to find employees in Missoula's labor-starved job market, hope to bolster their staffs at a job fair next Wednesday designed specifically for their industry.

The Lodging Industry Job Fair, sponsored by the Missoula Job Service Workforce Center, is scheduled from 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesday at the Dickinson Lifelong Learning Center in Missoula.

"We realized that the lodging industry is scrambling to find employees before the start of the tourist season," said Cindy Boies, an employment consultant at the Missoula Job Service. "They've been hard-hit because of Missoula's low unemployment rate. So we decided to have a job fair to help the lodging industry meet its long-term employment needs."

The Job Service has conducted job fairs in the past that were designed primarily to help youths find employment opportunities in a variety of fields. The lodging-industry fair will be the first the agency has organized to specifically target one business area, Boies said.

"We think this could be a prototype of a value-added service we can provide in the community," she said.

Wednesday's job fair will feature representatives from at least 22 of Missoula's 45 major lodging establishments, Boies said. The participating businesses include "all the bigger ones," she added.

"Many of the motels are bringing all their department heads to do the hiring," Boies said. "So we'll have at least 30 people interviewing for positions."

The job fair will target a broad segment of Missoula's population as potential job seekers, she said. But the Job Service is especially interested in attracting people from several groups that have long been considered "nontraditional" employees.

Those groups include high school and college students and clients of a variety of human-services agencies and organizations, including the Human Resource Council, Missoula County Office of Public Assistance, the Vocational Rehabilitation Service, Opportunity Resources Inc., Summit Independent Living Center and the Montana University System's Rural Institute on Disabilities.

The job fair could be a boon to Missoula's lodging industry, which has struggled with staff shortages for the past two years, said Jan Dirnberger, manager of Missoula's two Super 8 Motels and president of the Missoula-area Hospitality Industry Association.

"I can see right now that it's an opening to an area of employees we probably don't have now," Dirnberger said of the fair. "It could open markets we haven't ever identified before, like the high school market, which is an area we didn't have to go into before. We'll be trying to show them the possibilities of careers that are out there. It's not just a job. I started out as a front-desk clerk. So it's there."

Job seekers will have opportunities to find summer jobs as well as career possibilities at the job fair, according to Boies.

The job fair will also feature a special seminar for serious job applicants who already possess good customer-service skills and are actively applying for work in the lodging industry.

The two-hour workshop is scheduled from 10 a.m. to noon at the Dickinson Lifelong Learning Center. It will be taught by Dirnberger and Larry Lambert, manager of Ruby's Reserve Street Inn.

"We'll go into what we're looking for in our staffs, what the positions entail and the possibilities for advancement," Dirnberger said.

She and Lambert were selected to present the workshop because they represent two different examples of businesses within the industry, she said.

"They have an almost full-service hotel with Larry," Dirnberger said. "Ruby's has a restaurant, convention center, a sales department. An employee can work up from housekeeping though the management level right there.

"We have some flexibility for employees ," she added, "but not much in mid-management right here. But if people want to live here and travel, we have lots of available opportunities in the budget-motel industry that people don't know about. We have some positions for people who can live in the area and travel, and others that they may have to move to another area."

Some examples of career positions in the national budget motel industry, said Dirnberger, include quality assurance inspectors, staff and management trainers, reservations and marketing managers, and franchise representatives.

The timing of the Lodging Industry Job Fair was planned to take advantage of local hotels and motels gearing up for the summer tourist season, Boies said.

"This is important because tourism is a huge industry in this town," she said.

"I appreciate the fact that the Job Service has targeted a business that really needed it," said Dirnberger. "It was a good decision by them to target one industry, and not look at every business in town."

If you're interested

The Lodging Industry Job Fair is scheduled from 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesday at the Dickinson Lifelong Learning Center, 310 S. Curtis St., Missoula.

Daryl Gadbow can be reached at dgadbow@missoulian.com or by calling 523-5264.

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