When GT Hiring Solutions announced on Facebook, Twitter and its blog that it was hosting a one day job fair, it generated immediate interest and more than three hundred pre-registrations.
But that was only the tip of the iceberg. When it opened its doors at 10 a.m. this morning, nearly twice that number of people had already lined Douglas Street and wrapped around the corner onto Johnson – all of them looking for work.
The people who arrived for the job fair spanned the spectrum of Victoria’s population with men and women of all ages, educational levels, experience and backgrounds. Employers included a number of restaurant chains, retail stores, construction work, hotel work at the Victoria Marriott and Beacon Home Care.
Factors for this level of interest are varied, said Lindsay McLaughlin, the manager of GT Hiring Solutions and one of the organizers of the job fair.
“Victoria obviously has always had a lot of government jobs and they’ve imposed a hiring freeze so that’s had an effect. As well we have a lot of tourism and hospitality jobs and with the season winding down that has an impact too,” she said.
McLaughlin’s firm has been under contract with the provincial Ministry of Social Development since April as a WorkBC Employment Service Centre to help people overcome hurdles when looking for work.
“It’s a sort of a tight-knit town,” McLaughlin said. “There are jobs out there, but it’s important to get out and network. In some ways it’s a bit of a hidden job market and you have to work harder here to find a job.”
That’s been the case for 28-year-old Heather Brass. She’s been working, but has been “underemployed” for nearly two years. She had worked for both the provincial and federal governments, and since that work evaporated, she’s found it hard to find new employers.
“There’s not a lot of jobs out there and a lot of competition,” she said while waiting in line to enter the job fair.
Barb Anderson has been out of work for a year after the bank she worked at cut back staff. She went to Camosun College to upgrade her skills and at age 53 found herself in a class of 80 other students. “All of those people are out here now, looking for the same kind of work I want,” Anderson said. “I’m competing with all of them as well as all the others in classes before and since.”
Erin McFadyen, 18, said he has only managed to find part-time weekend work despite a four-month job search. “Part time doesn’t pay the bills,” he said.
“We’re obviously still dealing with an economy that’s trying to get on it’s feet, and times are hard for those looking for work,” McLaughlin said. “But we have a great team here today and fifteen employers who are looking for staff. There are jobs out there, the key is to never give up and to use places like ours to help where we can.”
More information on the provincial job centres can be found at workbc.ca.