Weather contributes to low turnout at job fair

Published 9:08 pm Sunday, July 2, 2023

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Stormy weather helped lead to poor attendance at The Tidewater News’ seventh annual Job Fair on Thursday, June 22, but vendors were still able to experience benefits from participating.

This year’s fair, sponsored by the Hampton Roads Workforce Council and also Isle of Wight County Economic Development, was held at Paul D. Camp Community College’s Workforce Development Center from 3-6 p.m. on Thursday.

“I feel like the weather really had an impact on attendance,” fair organizer Michelle Gray said. “Turnout by prospective employees was very low.”

Jodi Rose is a dispatcher with the Franklin Police Department who ran a booth for the FPD at the fair, and she acknowledged that things had been slow, but she reported receiving two applications during the first hour.

“That’s better than none,” she said.

Charis Hutton ran a booth for Riverside College of Health Careers, which is based out of Newport News, and she said, “Yeah, it’s slow, but that’s alright. I’ve been able to network with some of the other vendors, so that’s always good.”

“I actually had somebody stop by at the beginning who was really curious about professional development, so that was good too,” she added.

She highlighted how organizers could not help the fact that Thursday was a rainy day.

“I’m sure that scares people away, because I wouldn’t want to go outside in the rain,” she said.

Kaneesha Scott represented the Hampton Roads Workforce Council in a booth at the fair, and she said the fair proved to be a good networking event to promote job opportunities in the area.

“I count everything as a benefit,” she said.

Fifteen vendors participated in the fair this year, including Camp Community College, The Children’s Center, Coldwell Banker Now, Consulate Health Care of Windsor, Franklin Police Department, Hampton Farms, Hampton Roads Workforce Council, Keurig Dr Pepper, Lake Prince Woods, Riverside College of Health Careers, Smithfield Foods, Southampton County Sheriff’s Office, Sussex State Prison Complex, T-Mobile and The Village at Woods Edge.

Gray said that the average number of vendors to participate in past fairs has been 30. When asked what she thought accounted for the low vendor participation this year, she said, “I honestly don’t know. Maybe local companies aren’t in need as much as they have been, or it may be the time of year as we normally do the job fair in January.”

Gray was out on maternity leave last fall when preparations for The Tidewater News’ January fair would ordinarily be taking place, and then Camp also ended up hosting a job fair in January. 

“We’ve had vendors request us to do one in the summer in the past, and with me being out on maternity leave and Paul D. hosting a job fair this past January, it just seemed like the time to try it,” she said.

As she develops preliminary ideas for The Tidewater News’ eighth annual Job Fair, Gray said, “I think that we’ll go back to having the fair in January and possibly do more advertising prior to the event.”

Though she was navigating obvious disappointment with how this year’s event proceeded, Gray identified a silver lining.

“The vendors did say they received a couple of applications and that it was good networking,” she said. “If we helped anyone in need get a job, then I would consider the event a success.”