Last Wednesday, close to 200 potential manufacturing employees gathered in the Roger Williams Park Casino to attend an industry specific job fair. There were 25 Rhode Island-based manufacturing companies in attendance from Providence to North Kingstown.
All companies represented had open positions for job seekers from across the state to try and find an appropriate fit. Applicants from the cities of Warwick, Cranston and the town of Johnston combined made up nearly 20 percent of the individuals in attendance actively seeking positions.
Robert Ricci, director of the Providence/Cranston Workforce Solutions office and head of the job series project, was positive about the potential for success.
“Given the high unemployment that Rhode Island is experiencing, we need to have as many of these events as possible. People are interested in these jobs,” he said.
The job fair was one in a series of industry specific fairs, hosted by Cranston Mayor Allan Fung and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras in collaboration with Workforce Solutions. Fung and Taveras decided to team up because Workforce Solutions serves both Cranston and Providence. By working together, the two leaders developed the industry specific job fairs, creating a more targeted approach while allowing individuals a greater opportunity to obtain qualified positions.
“This is targeted towards specific industries,” said Fung. “People who are looking for a job in particular are more likely to get a job. It’s not just a résumé collection; it can be a meaningful experience. The bottom line is to put people back to work. Everything we can do to pair people who are looking for jobs with employers who are actively looking will help.”
Taveras was glad for the partnership, highlighting that he believes that it his job as mayor to help create as many jobs as possible.
“Mayor Fung and I work together whenever we can. Any time you connect potential employees with employers is great. That’s what you need to do more and more. As long as there are jobs available, it’s our job to connect the two,” he said.
A key aspect of the job fair series is a requirement that all companies invited be currently and actively hiring. In this respect, fair attendees have the potential to receive an interview and possible position with a company and do not spend time interviewing with companies who have no open positions. Positions varied from general laborers to office and administrative positions, giving attendees a variety of positions to choose from.
“The important thing is to bring employees into contact with people who are actively hiring,” said Ann Gooding, the director of communications for Providence’s Department of Economic Development. “Mayors Taveras and Fung want to use their shared resources and shine a light on the issue of unemployment.”
Four of those companies were Cranston-based. Those were Yushin America, Inc., Randstad, Manpower and Avanti jewelry.
Positive feedback given by companies that attended spoke to the ability to see firsthand who has proper skills for positions they have open. This was an important factor for Karen Paolucci, the human resources manager for Yushin America, Inc.
Paolucci was seeking out a production technician and a mechanical design technician; both positions required at least an associate’s degree in electronics. Yushin actually manufactures robots that are used to make plastic parts, and then ships them to different facilities all over the world. According to Paolucci, Yushin has been growing every year.
“It’s good to get out and let everyone know your company is hiring. We’re creating jobs and every year we do better than the year before. These job fairs help us,” she said.
Although Paolucci was unable to find a candidate qualified enough for the open positions at Yushin, another Cranston-based business that was hiring at the job fair was Randstad.
Ranstad is a global staffing organization and provider of HR services. The company provides both temporary and permanent employment placement. According to their website, they have placed 29,300 employees in 39 countries around the world.
Representing Randstad was Susan Hoerner, who is the site manager for Cranston’s office. She claimed that by coming to job fairs like the one on Wednesday, she could find more experienced workers for her company.
“I think it’s excellent. I’m targeting it just for people with experience. You find more experienced employees who want to work immediately,” she said.
Wally Parzych of Westerly has been working in the manufacturing industry since 1978 and has seen jobs diminish greatly. Parzych, who heard about the event through a friend, attended as one of the many job seekers, hoping to obtain a position in administration. When asked about his feelings on the industry specific fair, he gave a hopeful answer.
“I think it’s helpful to everyone these days. The opportunity to attend a manufacturing fair is a good thing,” he said.
One of those potential employees was Arelis Diaz of Providence. Diaz was looking for a manufacturing position, hopefully during second shift so that she could take classes at CCRI and become an RN. She was particularly interested in Tiffany’s, and wanted to start work as soon as possible.
“It just seems like a fun environment.” Diaz said of the company. Diaz also commented on the nature of the event.
“This is my first job fair, but they offer things other than manufacturing. There’s room for advancement.”
According to Mayor Fung, the job fair series has had very positive feedback from both employees and employers. Although he did not know how many jobs the fairs had led to, Fung was confident that people were able to find jobs through this series.
Wednesday’s job fair was the ninth in a series of 11 industry specific fairs hosted by Mayors Fung and Taveras each month. The next fair will be Wednesday, Sept. 18 from 12 to 2:30 p.m. at the Roger Williams Park Casino. The next industry that will be focused on is retail.