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Job seekers, employers share their experiences at Turlock job fair
job fair
Hundreds of local job seekers and employers united at the City of Turlock's first-ever job fair, which took place on Wednesday at the New Life Christian Center (Photo contributed).

Job seekers and employers were brought together on Wednesday at the City of Turlock’s first-ever job fair held at the New Life Christian Center. During the event, employers shared their thoughts on labor shortages, while those seeking new career opportunities shared their experiences of being on the job hunt.

Edgar Acevedo of RecruitGigs, a California-based recruiting firm, shared his perspective on why there continues to be high numbers of job openings despite the increasing labor force in the region.

“The biggest challenge is probably having people come to us pretty eager about wanting to get paid or wanting the job that pays the most... But before we can try getting you paid, we need to figure out what would work best for you to get paid to do, because then most of the time you won’t last,” Acevedo said. “Our role is to try to match employers and job seekers. We want to find job seekers a career that works for them, a job that they like doing and a place where they feel comfortable going to work every day.”

Denise George is the HR manager for Crystal Creamery. She agreed with Acevedo, explaining that recruiting employees and keeping them has been a challenge for the company.

“We offer benefits and high salaries, which helps us balance out the fact that many workers here work off-hours and during holidays,” George said. “The cows never stop producing, so employees can’t always get holidays off or work the most ideal hours… We can get some people through the door, but they fall off within the first few days because they realize they don’t want to work in that kind of environment.”

Some of the ways that Crystal Creamery has tried recruiting is through online job listings and word of mouth. George believes that the most effective way has been word of mouth, as current employees can share their experiences from their point of view. And while the approach has become more common amongst all employers, it’s not one that many of the job seekers at the event have found helpful. Perhaps one of the most common circumstances that job seekers at Wednesday’s event shared was that they are new to Turlock and the surrounding region. Many attendees shared that they have recently moved to the Central Valley because of the rising cost of living in other regions and metropolitan areas.

George Yewell is originally from Chicago and has lived in Los Angeles for the past couple of years. He moved to the Central Valley earlier this year and has found it difficult to find work in an environment that is still very new to him.

“It’s been difficult because I’m new here and nobody really knows me and almost everything is online,” Yewell said. “The job seeking ways have changed. There’s no face-to-face interaction anymore, and it makes it that much more difficult to know someone. I think it’s always better to speak to the person directly instead of looking at a piece of paper and judging them that way. It’s good to have an event like this and to give people those opportunities to open the door for people who have found it difficult to find jobs online.”

Jose Castillo Reyes is another job seeker who is new to the region. Originally from San Francisco, Reyes recently moved to Modesto to find new opportunities and to be closer to family.

“At the time I lived over there in the Bay Area, there were a lot of jobs available, but now it’s been pretty tough. A lot of jobs still haven’t come back since the pandemic and all the layoffs,” he said.

Like Yewell, looking for work in a new place without having any previous relationships has had its difficulties for Reyes as he has been unemployed and looking for work for a month.

“I’m trying to break into a new market, and nobody knows who I am yet,” he said. “I’ve been applying to places with no luck and have not received any feedback, and it’s been kind of weird… You kind of have to know somebody already working at these jobs to get you in the door. Hopefully this event can help me make those connections.”

While there were plenty of attendees who were looking to reenter the workforce or find new opportunities, there were those like Taylor Fessenden and Ashley Fraiser, who are trying to get a head start on the competitive job market. Both are finishing up their college degrees and felt that the best time to start looking for a stable job is now.

“We’re both getting our bachelor’s degrees so we came here looking for the opportunity to not just find a job that will work for us for the time being, but something we can turn into a career,” Fraiser said.

In their short time browsing the job market, Fessenden has come to believe that many employers are looking to hire workers to do more than what they are willing to pay for. Additionally, Fraiser believes that many employers do not give applicants an opportunity to learn and gain experience.

“A lot of places ask for a bachelor’s degree and minimum so many years of experience. Everybody wants the experience, but there aren’t many places willing to give that, and it ends up being like running on a hamster wheel,” Fraiser said. “Being able to talk with people in-person and allow the employers to get to know you is a big benefit of an event like this instead of them trying to get to know you through a computer.”

Another person who was in attendance for Wednesday’s job fair was Turlock Mayor Amy Bublak. She expressed confidence that the event can accomplish the goals shared by the attendees.

“I am so happy we’re hosting this,” Bublak said “It’s super exciting because I know that there will be connections today that will be long-term professions for these people.”