Job fair attracts thousands
• Photo gallery: Job Quest job fair
by Andrew Gomes
Advertiser Staff Writer
A decent number of employers with jobs to fill sought applicants at the Job Quest fair at Neal Blaisdell Center yesterday, and boy did they have a lot of people from whom to pick.
Some 5,300 job seekers visited the event where at least a few thousand jobs were available from 105 employers.
"There is lots of competition," said Abraham Narvaez, a 21-year-old from Mililani who is trying to land a job as a certified nursing assistant.
Job seekers young and old — some unemployed, some employed and some underemployed — made the rounds of the employer exhibits during the five-hour event, surveying their prospects, picking up applications and dropping off resumes.
The turnout wasn't unexpected for Hawai'i's oldest and largest job fair, given that the state's most recently reported unemployment rate in November was 7 percent, representing 44,950 people who were seeking but did not have a job.
The most recent Job Quest fair held in September drew 5,800 people while the unemployment rate was 7.4 percent.
However, more people — about 6,000 — attended the Job Quest event last January when unemployment was 6.1 percent.
More encouraging to organizers of the fair — which is sponsored by O'ahu Worklinks, ALTRES Staffing, The Honolulu Advertiser and Success Advertising Hawaii — was employer participation. Beth Busch, Job Quest executive director, said 14 companies signed up for booths just last week.
"It was a pleasant surprise," she said. "I think that's a positive sign for 2010."
At the year-ago job fair there were 120 companies represented, and 130 at the September fair.
The variety of job categories represented yesterday was fairly diverse, including law enforcement, retail, education, health care and banking.
Aside from rental car companies, tourism businesses weren't well represented. But the military was, with recruiting teams from the Army, Marine Corps and Hawai'i Air National Guard.
The city was seeking to fill 43 positions for its planned rail transit system, needing mostly engineers.
Some companies had fewer than a dozen jobs available, while others such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Census Bureau were seeking to fill more than 1,000 positions.
Dinner cruise ship operator Star of Honolulu and sister tour bus company Royal Star Hawaii sought to fill about 15 positions, including bus drivers, a fleet appearance manager, waiters, photographers and a dining room supervisor.
A little over an hour into the fair, the Star companies had received more than 60 applications, according to Star of Honolulu human resources manager Kathleen Campbell. "We always get quite a number of applicants," she said.
Lana Race from 'Ewa Beach was seeking a financial institution job, and said she was surprised by the turnout of 11 banks and financial industry firms that included Bank of Hawaii, Central Pacific Bank and Hawaii National Bank.
"I was surprised there are a lot of opportunities," said Race, who previously worked for First Hawaiian Bank in credit and risk management but was laid off in May after 11 years with the company.
'Aiea resident Roberta Baird, who has been unemployed for about a year since a military contract expired, visited just about every exhibitor and nearly exhausted her supply of more than 30 resumes in her search for a data entry administration job.
"With the economy and everything, it's been very hard to find something," said Baird, who also attended the September job fair. "I try not to be discouraged. That good job is going to come at the right time."
The next Job Quest fair is scheduled in May.