Joseph Freeman stood Wednesday at the Soldotna Sports Center with a handful of assorted paperwork, pamphlets and business cards.
Although he looked somewhat overwhelmed, he said the 2012 Kenai Peninsula Job Fair was just what he was looking for, he said.
"The job fair is the perfect spot for me because I get to interact with the companies and get to talk to the people and see what they are looking for because you go and drive out to these shops and you waste your time when people don't want you," he said.
The 26-year-old Sterling resident said he is working to complete his four years of training in machining and welding and attended the job fair in hopes of working for an oil and gas support service company.
He said he gathered as much information at the fair as he could and even took a few extra pamphlets for friends. He said he knows a lot of others are looking for work in the area.
"Just about half of the welding shop there at my college is (looking)," he said with a laugh.
He said the job fair and the fact that three companies took a serious look at his resume encouraged him.
"It saves me time going up to Anchorage and going up to Nikiski to find work especially with gas prices going up," he said.
The daylong fair filled the conference room of the Sports Center with a variety of employers, training services and organizations from a number of different industries. Oil and gas service support was a noticeable theme among the sea of tables.
John Fay, recruiting coordinator for ASRC Energy Services, said he has attended job fairs all over the state including Anchorage and Fairbanks, but was impressed with the Central Peninsula turnout.
"It is a lot busier than I expected it to be," he said.
Fay said he was keeping busy talking to job hopefuls about the company's openings for roustabouts, welders, equipment operators and other positions for work on the North Slope and locally. In about two hours, he talked to 110 people, he said.
He said he saw a lot of resumes and about half of them had the qualifications, experience and training he was looking for.
"That's actually good," he said. "I didn't expect it to be that high, actually."
He said he also felt a lot of people were making themselves flexible and open to whatever work they could find.
"I've seen a lot of talent," he said. "One guy gave me his resume and he said, 'I applied for this position and it seemed like a fit for me.' I looked at his resume and I was like, 'Yeah, you are a perfect fit for that position.' Seems to be quite a bit of flexibility here today. And you always hear, 'And I'm a quick learner.'"
Soldotna resident Carri Rossini fit that bill.
Rossini said she has been looking for work since November of 2011 and sent out about 35 applications online.
"Basically, the problem I have is that what is available here is just so limited for upper management and accounting," she said. "So I've tried to break into a new field, into oil and gas because that seems to be one of the major players around here."
She said looking for a job can be a bit frustrating.
"I definitely think there are a lot of people looking for work and it seems like from all the people that I've talked to, you have to know someone," she said. "That's kind of what I'm gathering. It is tough to even connect with a person because everything is online or in the paper. So you submit an application or resume and a cover letter and you don't hear anything back and you have no idea."
She said she had been at the job fair for a half hour and handed out three resumes, but was only looking at specific companies.
"If you were born and raised here and your whole work experience has been here, your interests have been tailored to what is here," she said. "It is just not a vast market of opportunities for different types of occupations. Here what's big is the medical industry and oil and gas."
Not all those who attended the job fair were unemployed, however. Kayla O'Donnoghue said she has a job currently but fears they might cut back her hours. She said she was looking for an upgrade even though many of her friends had been lucky enough to find steady work.
O'Donnoghue said she found it difficult to approach certain businesses because the work she wants to do is typically thought of as male-oriented.
"Doing electrical and construction and things like that," said the 19-year-old Soldotna resident. "A lot of people don't hire young girls to do things like that, but it is something that I know how to do."
O'Donnoghue said she is taking classes in business management to help increase her chances of finding a better job.
It can be frustrating, she said, but it's worth it in the end. It's a "job looking for a job," she said.
"My dad always said, 'Just get your foot in the door and you can start from there,'" she said.
Nate Berga, production manager for the Kenai-based Snug Harbor Seafoods, said the number of job seekers and employers that attended the fair were impressive. He said they had to print off a new stack of applications after running out early in the morning.
"Fish and Game is projecting a busy season just like last year, so a lot of our hiring is based on the outlook of the season," he said. "We're actually processing fish now, so we are looking for people now."
Berga said he had about 40 people pick up applications and some of them filled it out and returned them a few hours later.
"I think everybody is eager," he said. "Winter is done pretty much and it is time to get out, start working and make some money. I think people are ready to do that."
Brian Smith can be reached at email@example.com.