Thursday, May 28, 2009

Regional job fair a success in Pittsfield

What do you do when your town continues to suffer job losses, and longtime stable employers continue to layoff employees? Hold a regional job/resource fair, that’s what.

Pittsfield Town Manager Kathryn Ruth, and members of the Kennebec/Somerset (Ken-Som) Transition Team helped organize and put on a regional event, Wednesday afternoon, featuring over 20 regional employers, educational/training providers, resources for the unemployed, as well as workshops on developing new skills for the workplace, how to conduct online job searches, and tips on starting your own business.

The Ken-Som Transition Team is comprised of community members and organizations that are concerned about their neighbors that are in the throes of unemployment. With individuals representing social service agencies, state and municipal offices, health care, employment agencies, education, workforce development and training organizations, local businesses, as well as other interested individuals, this team recognizes its role as a provider of information, resources, and support to people who have lost their jobs.

The team was initially formed in response to the closing of the San Antonio Shoe (SAS) company in Pittsfield, and immediately began brainstorming ways to help the laid off workers of SAS. Some of the first meetings provided an opportunity for team members to learn what the employees needed. The first project completed by the team was a comprehensive Resource Guide. The Guide is packed with addresses and phone listings for agencies/resources in the two-county area and statewide. Each employee affected by the SAS layoff was provided with a Guide.

[Job fair attendees gather at the Manpower booth, on Wednesday]

A second task undertaken by Ken-Som team was to put together a regional job fair, which they did last May. Wednesday's event was their second annual Regional Area Job Fair held in Pittsfield, and was again held at Warsaw School. Last year’s fair drew over 300 people looking for employment. This year’s event rivaled that attendance number, according to Ken-Som members.

In response to the recent General Electric layoff, a WorkReady program similar to the one offered last fall for individuals laid off by San Antonio Shoe is being planned in June. The program’s curriculum was oriented specifically for individuals who’ve lost jobs and are in need of retraining, particularly around technology skills. For more information about WorkReady, interested individuals can contact MSAD 53 Adult and Community Education, at 487-5145, extension 413. Applications are also being accepted at the Skowhegan CareerCenter, 98 North Avenue, in Skowhegan. Their phone number is 474-4950.

For additional information about the Ken-Som Transition Team, or to receive a free Resource Guide, contact Michele Prince, 859-1583 or Celine Richards, 859-1585 at the Kennebec Valley Community Action Program (or call toll free at 1-800-542-8227, and ask to speak with Michele or Celine).

[5.29 @ 10:45: Job Fair update-According to Ruth, the final attendance for the job fair was over 400, as 436 handouts were distributed when people came in the door, which exceeded last year's attendance. In all, there was a combined 40 employers/staffing agencies/work programs represented. The feedback from the event has been overwhelmingly positive.--JB]

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