With many jobs available, WorkSource St. Helens is scheduling a job fair event for Sept. 15.

COURTESY PHOTO: WORKSOURCE ST. HELENS - At a hiring event in April in St. Helens, job seekers take advantage of a drive-thru event. Walking through St. Helens, it's not hard to find a business with a "help wanted" sign in the window.

As the economy improves and kids return to in-person classrooms this fall, more people will be updating resumes and looking for employment.

An event called St. Helens HIRES will be held Wednesday, Sept. 15. The effort to match employers with employees is being made possible by WorkSource St. Helens and local St. Helens businesses.

The free hiring event is two-pronged.

Under this "hybrid" approach, the first opportunity for participating businesses to connect with job-seekers will be a drive-thru job fair from 9 a.m. to noon Sept. 15 in the parking lot of the Foursquare Church, across from the DMV.

Also, employers can choose which hours between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. that they would like to have job seekers apply in person to their job site. Employers will be required to assign a point person who will be available to greet job-seekers and provide current job information and how applicants will apply.

According to WorkSource St. Helens, job-seekers will start at the drive-thru event and will receive a map and a list of employers who are participating at their work site or place of business.

Diana Nish, youth operations supervisor for Equus Workforce Solutions, said the idea behind the event is: "How can we assist employers with finding people, and how can we help job seekers get connected with them?"

Jobs are aplenty in the St. Helens area.

"We know just by driving through our communities that there are 'help wanted' signs in almost every single business," Nish said. "We wanted to find ways that we could connect them."

As an example, Nish said that in a visit to 30 employers in the area, two were fully staffed.

Kelly Dowell, a business services representative for WorkSource and Columbia City resident, said, "It's easier to find an employer that is hiring than one that isn't, at this point."

Dowell notes that it is getting difficult for employers to find workers.

"Employers have told us when we are out talking to them that they are having a hard time finding job-seekers," Dowell said. "They're not having enough staff at some of the restaurants to stay open during the hours they normally would."

Dowell continued, "They just don't have enough people to do the work right now. They're searching for people. That's what we're doing here, trying to make that connection."

Asked if any particular business in St. Helens is in need of employees, Dowell said the need is not specific to any one business or sector.

"We've hit retail, we've hit food service, welders, light industrial production, all of them," Dowell said. "It's across the board. Workers are needed in all the occupations we're looking at right now."

Since early in the pandemic, the federal government has been augmenting unemployment benefits. Some critics of that policy argue that provides a disincentive for people to actually work.

Nish said there are other reasons some people might have exited the workforce or find themselves struggling to find a job that fits their needs.

"School starts next month," Nish pointed out. "There were many parents who needed to stay home because they couldn't leave their children by themselves. Many people were forced to leave the workforce."

Nish continued, "We're hopeful that, when school is back in session, that they will be able to start looking for work."

Kim Mann, also representing WorkSource, said that with many employers requiring online job applications, it's nice to have face-to-face meetings.

"They can meet them one on one, instead of just receiving all applicants through the website," Mann said.

Nish, Dowell and Mann are hoping for a good turnout at the Sept. 15 event.

"We definitely feel that we will get a great response," Nish said. "So far, employers are very positive about the event and actually seem to be excited that there's someone willing to reach out and help them try to stay open."

For more information, you can reach out to Kelly Dowell at 503-378-2199 or Kim Mann at 888-457-1178.

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