Jobs Aplenty

Judy Erickson and HR/recruiting specialist Mandi Johnk, American Crystal Sugar. (Photo/Nancy Hanson.)

Nancy Edmonds Hanson

The “Open for Business” Job Fair drew the maximum number of companies and agencies anxious to hire … but just a few more than one applicant per employer.

Four dozen Moorhead, Fargo and West Fargo employers brought their best offers to the outdoor event at the Vista Center for Education on June 24. Some came equipped with eye-catching displays and crowd-pleasing lures – games, even popcorn. All were prepared to “sell” the job opportunities their organizations offered, from the entry level to professional positions.

And while several said the event did help them get their stories across to potential employees, only a few reported firm commitments from job-seekers who planned to formally apply. A total of 63 men and women attended … most still weighing the jobs, wages and benefits they’d learned about, and a happy handful walking away with big smiles already on their faces.

“We think it went very well,” Theresa Hazemann of Rural Minnesota CEP said afterwards. “We liked the flow and the visibility outdoors. The employers told us they very much enjoyed the ‘trunk ‘n’ treat’ style. It was a beautiful day. Thank goodness for the breeze.

“We just wish we’d had more applicants.” A total of 63 were logged during the three-hour event.

For Mandi Johnk, HR director and recruiting specialist for American Crystal Sugar, the afternoon was a definite success.

“Sixteen people stopped by to talk,” she reported, adding that she didn’t know whether they had formally applied yet. “It was better than I thought it would be.”

Johnk and colleague Judy Erickson were primarily looking to fill out the sugar processor’s factory team for the upcoming campaign. She said beginning wages for a worker on the processing and packaging side of operations with no experience is $18.37 plus benefits. “It goes up from there,” she added, noting that a variety of professional positions are also available for qualified applicants.

“We’re looking for reliable people who are willing to work rotating shifts,” she explained. “We’d like to see someone who works well with others and takes direction – who is dependable. If we’ve got that, we can get them trained.”

She emphasized to potential applicants, she said, that Crystal is a highly stable company in which to build a future: “We’re not going away anytime soon. These are great opportunities to work your way up for a rewarding career.”

Looking toward the future, Johnk shared a common apprehension: “There are just more jobs and fewer people looking right now – just not enough people. With Amazon moving in and looking to hire 700, it makes me very nervous.”

Like Johnk, Miranda Rutten, director of senior living for Eventide Senior Living Communities, pronounced the job fair a success. “It was definitely beneficial to be there,” she reported. She and Robin Gumke were primarily looking for applicants to fill the kinds of jobs often overlooked by those who hear “Eventide” and think, “nursing” – drivers, receptionists, the front desk and office assistants, for example. They were also hoping to recruit men and women to be trained in their facilities to become certified nursing assistants: “When they finish and pass the test, we’ll hire them as CNAs.”

“Finding applicants has been a challenge,” she admitted. The MBA/Rural MN CEP event was the first in which she’d participated personally, as well as one of the first face-to-face events since pandemic restrictions were eased.

Eventide’s operations are “competitive with other facilities in the region,” she said, declining to city numbers. They offer referral bonuses for employees who bring others into the fold.

“The big thing I’m hearing is, ‘Oh, I’m not a nurse,’” she said. “People are surprised at the range of positions we’re hiring for.” Those showing interest ranged from 20 to 60, she added, and were evenly split between men and women.

Andy Luikens, recruiting program manager for RDO Equipment, encountered the same degree of incorrect assumptions in those who stopped to visit beside the big green John Deere tractor that shaded his table.

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