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IowaWORKS Job Fair offers employment opportunities

  • Kara Thiele, center, an HR recruiter with Centrum Valley Farms in Clarion, speaks to prospective employees attending the IowaWORKS Job Fair at Charles City High School on Tuesday afternoon. Press photo by Kelly Terpstra

  • Timothy Parcher, left, a plant manager at Winnebago in Charles City, talks to Matt Losee at the IowaWORKS Job Fair at Charles City High School on Tuesday afternoon. Press photo by Kelly Terpstra

By Kelly Terpstra,

Matt Losee hit the unemployment line last week.

That’s why he didn’t mind the humid confines of the Charles City High School gymnasium on Tuesday.

He was willing to sweat it out to find what he was looking for – a job.

Job seekers from around the area were checking out one of the 50 businesses that were on hand for the IowaWORKS Job Fair at Charles City High School.

Kristle Percy, a business marketing specialist out of the IowaWORKS office in Mason City, said the Simply Essentials plant closing was the impetus to have the job fair in Charles City. She said this is the first time her office has held at job fair in a town that is not on-site.

More than 500 employees of Simply Essentials lost their jobs when the chicken plant officially closed on August 5.

Losee was one of those casualties.

He said he had been at the fair since early in the morning when it started and had been to every booth to discuss employment opportunities.

The Charles City resident was trying to be as optimistic as he could about his chances at snagging a job. Losee said his main job at Simply Essentials was that as iceman. He would put a scoop of ice in a box of chicken and close the lid as it went by on a conveyor belt. He’s looking for gainful employment in processing or factory work and would like to remain in the area.

“Most of them are three hours away. That’s not a good option, especially with winter coming on,” said Losee.

Percy works closely with Tim Fox, executive director of the Charles City Area Development Corp., and the Charles City School District. She said the job fair was open to anyone, but there was an emphasis on trying to help former Simply Essentials employees get back on their feet.

“We just really wanted to offer something for them to be able to find employment in a timely manner,” said Percy.

Percy said there were many different sectors in the job field represented at the fair that offered entry level and skilled positions. Those fields included employers in advanced manufacturing, health care, human service, distribution and retail.

“This is just kind of one of these situations where we had such a large workforce and we wanted to be able to accommodate as many employers as we could,” said Percy. “We really have a nice mixture because we know that the wide range of skill set within the employer base that we were looking at is very wide.”

IowaWORKS has offices all across the state and provides its service free of charge. The government agency can help prospective employees with job placement, resumes and interviews or to learn about new trends in the hiring process.

Kavaya Weitzel and his buddies know all about hard work. They run a mowing business in the summer.

“It’s knocking on doors and I have a notebook in my truck,” said Weitzel, who is 16 and will be a junior at Charles City High School this fall.

His friends — Bode Purcell, 17, and Tanner Hulbert, 17 — tagged along to see if they might be the right fit to get hired somewhere. They all agreed their age sets limits where they can apply, as a lot of jobs won’t consider hiring a person unless they are at least 18 years old.

Weitzel said he’s not picky and will work 40 hours a week in addition to attending class every day. He’ll work weekends, too.

“I’m open. A job’s a job to me, really. As long as I’m making money and I can keep myself stable,” Weitzel said.

Percy said one of the number one attributes an employer is looking for in someone searching for a job is their drive.
“Are you motivated? Are you dedicated?” said Percy. “Employers will invest in you if you’re willing to invest your time in them.”

Percy also added that it’s a job seeker’s market and that means it’s competitive.

“Employers are struggling to find employees. It used to be, you know, the employers kind of controlled things. Now it’s more on the job seekers. There’s a lot more opportunities out there than there were before. They can be picky. They can find the right culture for them. They can find the right environment for them,” said Percy.

Percy said the unemployment rate in Iowa is 2.4 percent.

She gave advice for would-be employees who have struggled to latch on somewhere and to be able to receive that all-important paycheck.

“I would say not to get discouraged and ask for help. If you keep getting turned down over and over, maybe there’s something you’re doing wrong in an interview. Reach out to an IowaWORKS Center — we can help you,” she said.

The North Iowa Job and Career Fair is slated to be held on April 9, 2020 in the NIACC gymnasium. The annual job fair is hosted by NIACC and IowaWORKS.