BANGOR, Maine — Whether they were organizers, students looking for jobs, or employers looking to hire at Wednesday’s Beal College Career, their reaction to it seemed the same: Good job.
“This is even better than I hoped as far as the response we’ve had,” said Donna Gillette, Beal College’s career services coordinator. “I think this is good timing and that we’ll do this annually, and I’m very pleased with the community support we had for this as well.”
The Bangor college’s first career fair in seven years drew representatives of 30 businesses and organizations and 131 students.
Beth Frost, human resource generalist for Penobscot Community Health Care, personally talked to 40 of those students and thinks she may hire as many as three of them.
“I found three candidates that I definitely think we’ll probably hire,” said Frost, who attends about a half-dozen fairs of this type each year. “We’re definitely looking for people at fairs like these to hire as medical assistants and patient service representatives because of high demand and having so many clinics and high turnover.
“We get a lot of good applicants and candidates from these types of fairs. We also do a lot of externships and network with people here to find qualified candidates.”
The purpose of the fair is to meet and network with potential employers from around the state.
“The reason we call it a career fair is because we’re a school that trains people for careers, not just jobs,” said Beal director of admissions Erin Leighton.
Organizational participants at the fair came from all over the state and included law enforcement agencies, health care specialists, counseling, Verizon Wireless, Tri-County Career Center, United Cerebral Palsy, or UCP, of Maine, The Salvation Army, and Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary from South Portland.
Beal accounting student Pam Robertson attended the fair as part of a class, but got a lot more out of it.
“I really wanted to meet some specific employers at Eastern Maine Medical Center and Penquis CAP, because I saw a couple positions of interest and wanted to introduce myself and check with the career center to see what was out there in my field,” she said. “It never hurts to better yourself and ask around to see what opportunities are available.”
Bob Haley, director of the State Approving Agency for Veteran’s Education, makes at least a dozen appearances at fairs like these all over Maine each year. He had a specific goal on Wednesday.
“Here we’re promoting the on-the-job-training program,” said Haley, who works for the University of Maine System. “The way it works is the veteran or eligible dependant gets a job, and then in addition to wages they’re paid by their employer, we can help craft a training program with their employer so they can draw additional G.I. Bill benefits while they’re working.
“It’s not an internship because they’re actually working. We can augment their income to help them absorb income loss while they’re getting into a new career at an entry-level wage.
“I’ve talked to about 20 students today and that’s great for a fair at a school this size,” said Haley. “They did a great job promoting this.”
Sgt. Richard Harburger of Penobscot County Sheriff’s Department was wearing three hats at the fair, but he wasn’t nearly as busy.
“I’ve only talked to about four students today.They have a law enforcement program here, but I’m guessing they must all be in class today,” Harburger said with a chuckle. “I recruit for both the department of corrections and law enforcement. We hire a lot more for corrections because the turnover is much higher.”
Harburger says he also tries to answer any questions about the department.
“It’s also a promotional vehicle for us with the public,” added Harburger, who earned an English degree from Ricker College in Houlton before embarking on a 40-year law enforcement career. “A lot of people really don’t know what sheriffs are, and it’s different in each state.”
The fair was held in the college’s new student lounge, built last year during extensive renovations.
“That’s probably the biggest reason we haven’t hosted one of these in a while,” said Gillette. “We didn’t have adequate space for one.”
Students of all classes and ages attended, both traditional and non-traditional. That’s good news to organizers, who stressed the idea that fairs like this help underclassmen just as much — if not more — than upperclassmen.
“I think it’s good for any of our students to start thinking about their careers, even if it’s a ways off,” said Leighton. “It’s never too early for a student to get their name and face out there in the employment world.”