Job fair aiming for success stories

Center provides helping hand

Posted: Sunday, March 24, 2002

Sometimes a person needs a little help. Just ask Jennifer Denomie of Nikiski.

A few years ago, she was comfortable in her life as a homemaker, caring for her family.

But when her husband left her with two sons, Denomie found she needed help.

With little money, she applied for welfare to support her children. As a condition of the program, she was required to spend time working with the Peninsula Job Center.

"When I started, I was depressed with my family situation. I didn't have a vehicle. I didn't understand why I had to go in," she said. "They just kept encouraging me. It's a tough situation to be in. It really opened my eyes and made me realize that to be successful with my family, I needed to be successful with myself."

The Peninsula Job Center offers a number of career counseling and preparation services to peninsula residents, as well as training and recruitment sessions for area employers.

Saturday, the center will host its largest event yet, offering a peninsulawide job fair at Kenai Peninsula College.

"The hope is to be able to stimulate our economy, network and allow companies to see who's out there," said Marie English, a counselor at the center. "For job and career seekers, it's an opportunity to come under one roof, see everything that's out there, learn and maybe even get a job."

Denomie began participating in job center programs on interview training, coping skills and money management. Soon, she was volunteering at the job center to gain office experience and learning to identify her skills.

"They helped by showing me the skills I have," she said. "I didn't think I had any clerical skills. They showed me strong points about myself I didn't realize I had."

Volunteering at the center soon led Denomie to a temporary job with the U.S. Census Bureau. From there, she became a waitress until she was recommended to the U.S. Department of Health, where she worked from 1999 to 2001. Then she got a call from job center staff telling her about an opening as an office manager with Austin Industrial. She got the job and six months later was picked up by Udelhoven, the company that provides electrical, instrumental and heat tracing crews for Austin.

She works as an office manager at the Nikiski gas-to-liquid plant.

"I love the people I work with. I'm learning a lot from them and hoping to have a long-term future with them," she said.

She also is no longer on welfare.

"The biggest achievement for me, though, is that I'm setting a good example for my boys."

The job center, Denomie said, was an integral part of her transition into a stable financial situation and positive outlook.

"They don't just hand these things to you," she explained. "They can say, 'These are your options,' but it is up to the person to determine what path they are going to go down. The program is wonderful."

More than 50 employers have registered to host booths at Saturday's job fair, and many will be taking resumes and interviewing for current job openings.

The event will also include prizes for job seekers and employers and live music.

"It's a pretty big deal," English said. "This is the largest job fair ever attempted on the peninsula."

The job fair will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Kenai Peninsula College. Companies can still register for space and do not have to have current job openings to participate. Job seekers do not need to register to attend. For more information, call the Peninsula Job Center at 283-2900.

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