Those Seeking Employment Have Many Choices

Several hundred people attended a job fair hosted by MCARD and IowaWORKS on Thursday afternoon at Penn Central Mall.

Job Fair (file photo)

Oskaloosa, Iowa – In November, MCARD [Mahaska County Agriculture & Rural Development] and IowaWORKS co-hosted a job fair in the center court of Penn Central Mall.

The lowest point for Iowa’s unemployment rate came in June 2019, with a 2.4% unemployment rate. Illinois had a 4.3%, while Minnesota and Missouri each had 3.3% unemployment rates.

The latest figures put Iowa at a 2.5% unemployment rate, while Illinois has improved to a 3.9% rate, Missouri has dropped to 3.1%, and Minnesota to a 3.2%.

In Mahaska County, the unemployment rate is 2.3%.

At its highest, Iowa had a 6.6% unemployment rate back in May of 2009.

At that time, employers had an advantage because there were fewer jobs available, and they could choose candidates that best fit their needs.

Today, with the unemployment rate low, businesses can struggle to fill positions. One area restaurant closed its doors because they were unable to find the needed staff to operate.

Business owners have become creative in employee retention, offering rewards to employees, and being creative in recruiting new talent.

Julie Montgomery, human resources for Community First Credit Union, said the numbers of attendees are getting smaller at job fairs, but says that other options such as online applications and job searches may be a factor in that.

Montogomery says that Community First Credit Union has been able to find the quality employees it needs and hasn’t negatively impacted their business. “We’re still getting a strong applicant flow.”

Montgomery said that if someone is interested in joining a business to reach out to that company’s HR team to see what they are looking for and what their needs are.

Deanne DeGroot is the Executive Director of MCARD, and she spoke about how the job fair has continued to evolve over the years, and what its role may be in the future.

With that unemployment rate, DeGroot said that employers are doing their best to attract suitable candidates, including recruitment of those already employed.

Some of those already employed individuals were at the job fair, seeing what types of opportunities may be available to them.

DeGroot said that the result from the job fair this year will be evaluated before plans are put in place for 2020.

Christian Ray, with IowaWORKS, said that the job fair is something they work to help develop in their ten county area. They want to find opportunities for employers and individuals seeking jobs to meet. “It’s a win for the community, a win for the employers and a win for the individuals looking for employment.”

Ray agreed that the overall numbers of participation were down this year at the job fair, but with the current unemployment rate, “So given that, we’re still pretty happy with the results that we’re seeing today.”

When it comes to recruiting employees, Ray says that they are seeing employers thinking outside the box, more than they ever have, to recruit talent.

One of those changes employers are doing to find talent includes doing high school events where they are getting ‘in front of juniors and seniors, and even younger,” explained Ray. “And even younger, clear down into, I’m talking to folks in fifth grade now for their job opportunities, are being exposed or promoted at the elementary level. So we’re having opportunities for employers to start promoting to kids younger and younger and letting them know, hey, there are opportunities within the community.”

This effort is to let kids know that “college isn’t necessarily the only avenue, that there could be employment without the college; or simultaneously go to college and pay for it too,” explained Ray.

The trades and apprenticeships have gained considerable traction in recent years. A recent visit by Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds to Oskaloosa highlighted the state’s push to help fill jobs in Iowa through the trades programs.

Employers are using education as a key to help entice new employees into a trades position by offering to pay for that education, while also earning a good wage.

“So yeah, a lot of these employers in this room are talking about apprenticeship opportunities, internship opportunities, and what they can do to reach out and get these young individuals and train them,” said Ray.

You can find out more information by visiting IowaWORKS at their website –

Posted by on Nov 28 2019. Filed under Local News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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