Ironwood — The Upper Peninsula Michigan Works! office held its first job fair since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday in Ironwood’s Depot Park. The job fair offered job seekers a chance to see what type of employment is available locally.
“We’ve got a good range of employers here,” said Steve Lehto, Jr., Michigan Works! business services specialist, who coordinated the event. “We’ve got healthcare jobs. We’ve got factory jobs. We’ve got all kinds of jobs.”
There were 21 employers at the job fair, according to Trisha Todd, Michigan Works! workforce services manager.
In all, 54 job seekers attended the event, Todd said. Lehto said of those job seekers, 20 arrived in the first 30 minutes of the four-hour event. He said it is “kind of a mixed bag” as to how many people show up, depending on where the events are held.
“It was nice, even with the rain,” said Todd. “I was just engrossed in the chatter. It was the first time in a long time that I’ve been able to hear chatter like that.”
Lehto said the job fair was designed for all types of job seekers, including those seeking a new job and those seeking a career change.
Many of the employers expressed that they were pleasantly surprised with the turnout for the event.
“It’s an awesome turnout,” said Ashley Jarvenpaa activities director at Gogebic Medical Care Facility in Wakefield. “I was thinking it was going to be one or two people, but we’ve actually had a lot of people that have trickled on through. It’s a nice, solid flow, verses everybody at once.”
One of the employers at the job fair was Burton Industries, a contract manufacturer of electronic components that now has two locations in Ironwood. Rosemary Kazik, human resource director for Burton Industries, said that, while they had not necessarily received a lot of applications, she had been able to inform a lot of visitors about the 45-year-old company.
“We had visits, that’s all that matters,” said Kazik. “A lot of it is just about getting your name out there because a lot of people don’t know we exist.”
Molly Hastings, the Greenbush home supervisor with Gogebic County Community Mental Health, agreed there were few applicants but said that it is always good to get the service’s name out there.
“I’m optimistic. At least it gives us businesses a chance to display what we do,” said Theresa Turula of Ironwood Plastics. “Websites can only do so much.”
Angelique Pearce said she came to the job fair to look for new opportunities in the area. She said she had come to Ironwood from Las Vegas to start a Bradberry Academy. However, her plan to start school is on hold now as a result of the pandemic.
“They have a lot of new businesses this year popping up in the area, which is nice,” said Pearce. “I’m glad to see our community growing.”
Some job seekers came from other states with the desire to seek employment in the community here. Garron Stenstrom came from Chicago because he has property here and wanted to get a feel for the job market. Lisa Ursini, of Plymouth, Minnesota said her husband recently obtained a job in the area and she is searching for a local position so that she can be with her husband.
“This is, like, phenomenal to see this,” she said. “I want to be back, so I’m so happy they are having (the job fair) here.”
Melanie Schenk, of the Northern Waters Casino Resort, said that she was really surprised by the turnout and hoped to receive some “true applicants.”
“Some people have only been applying cause unemployment tells them to, so it’s hard to find the true applicants,” said Schenk. “It’s been pretty tough.”
Lehto said that the U.P. Michigan Works! Office plans to have at least one job fair a year as long as the restrictions from the pandemic are lifted. According to Todd, Several of the employers said they received multiple applicants. She said they will be checking back next week to see how many people gained employment through the event.
Michigan Works! is located at 100 South Mill Street in Bessemer. It is open Monday thru Wednesday, and Friday, Thursday by appointment to help job seekers and employers connect. For more information contact Michigan Works! at 906- 932-4059.
Click this link for more information about Michigan Works! events in the Upper Peninsula.