Area job fair expands to offer more opportunities in growing industries

Working on it

Posted: Friday, March 31, 2006

Representatives from more than 50 employers will set up shop in the Kenai today in hopes of snagging recruits for jobs ranging from entry-level fast food positions to advanced jobs such as engineering.

The Kenai Peninsula Job Fair, an annual event that stands as the largest of its kind on the peninsula, begins today at 10 a.m. at the Kenai Mall, also known as the old Carrs mall. As of Thursday there were 57 vendors signed up — five more than are listed on the Alaska Job Center Network’s Web site in its announcement of the event. That marks the most in the fair’s five-year history.

“Let’s put it this way, if somebody calls, we won’t turn them down,” Job Center Manager Val Ischi said early Thursday afternoon. “But it’s getting down to the zero hour.”

This year is the second the job fair will host educational panels on a variety of industries, with the addition this year of an apprenticeship panel. The panels allow job seekers the chance to meet with those who work in the fields they are looking into.

“There will be actual firefighters there, not just (human resources) people,” Ischi said.

The apprenticeship panel will provide an introduction to on-the-job learning in fields such as electrical work, plumbing, carpentry, painting and emergency medical services. The apprenticeship panels were added, Ischi said, because of the popularity of last year’s panel format.

“People found a lot of information at those panels,” she said.

The last minute vendor add-ons and the push for apprenticeships highlight a feature of the statewide job market that has become a drumbeat from a variety of state officials and industry professionals: oil and gas, construction and mining are all ripe with opportunity for job seekers.

“These are hot topics because of what’s coming up in our state,” Ischi said, pointing to statements from the governor and to the Peninsula Job Center’s own ballooning list of available industrial positions. “That’s really coming from the top down.”

Job seekers can give themselves a leg up when seeking such work by attaining certifications. Arctic Slope Regional Energy Corporation Energy Services (ASRC Energy) is one vendor sending recruiters from Anchorage for the fair. Robert Peterkin II, a business development manager with ASRC, said a lack of certificated workers can at times stand in the way of the company’s recruiting efforts.

“It’s difficult finding people with the right certifications,” Peterkin said.

The most beneficial certificates a job seeker hoping for a toehold in the energy industry can get, he said, are the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Standard (HAZWOPER), Health and Safety, Confined Space Training and the North Slope Training (NSTC). Information on how and where to earn such certifications will be available at the job fair.

According to Peterkin, ASRC’s main focus today will be to hire for positions on the Kenai Peninsula, but the company is in the beginning phases of a hiring flurry that will reach across the state.

“We have to hire over 300 people just for Anchorage in the next month,” he said. “We’re also looking for employees for the North Slope.”

The Kenai Peninsula Job Fair in the Kenai Mall will feature several educational panels:

· Oil, Gas and Mining — 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Dogwood Room;

· Health Care Professions — 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Forget-Me-Not Room;

· Labor Market/Wage and Hours — 12:45 to 2:15 p.m. in the Dogwood Room;

· Emergency Medical Services — 1 to 2:30 p.m. in the Forget-Me-Not Room;

· Apprenticeships — 2:30 to 4 p.m. in the Dogwood Room;

· Criminal Justice — 2:30 to 4 p.m. in the Forget-Me-Not Room.

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