BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – “I’ll take a cousy, and umm, oh, a water bottle, and give me a t-shirt. Oh and throw in one of those forklift jobs.”
Well, that may not have been exactly on the menu Wednesday at the Lee County Economic Development Group’s Drive Thru Job Fair, but one thing’s for sure, the coronavirus keeps teaching us new ways to conduct old business.
On Wednesday, the LCEDG rolled out a new way to help fill job openings in the county.
About 15 employers, including the U.S. Army National Guard, set up tents in the Baxter Sports Complex from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., where job seekers could stay in their cars masked up and go through the parking lot talking with human resource professionals and employers.
One of the tents was staffed by representatives from Team Staffing with offices in Fort Madison, Burlington and Mt. Pleasant in southeast Iowa.
Angela King, Branch Manager for Team Staffing in Fort Madison said their group had spoken with about 25 people before noon. The event started at 10 a.m. and ran through 2 p.m.
King said the county still has more jobs than people to fill them and the event was a unique way to reach people safely and efficiently. King said it could even be something that is built on after the pandemic subsides.
“We’re going out to the car and having them give us their name and number and what shift they are interested in so we can follow up,” King said.
The visits were also a chance to hand out some swag gifts.
King said the coronavirus has definitely had an impact on hiring and the federal unemployment benefits, on top of the state benefit, is making filling positions a little more difficult.
“We still have more than 150 jobs available in Fort Madison, Burlington and Mt. Pleasant,” she said.
Stephanie Nagrocki, another branch manager for Team Staffing said it was tough even before the coronavirus hit the U.S.
“I’ve been with the company for seven years and this is probably the most challenging time we’ve had,” she said.
“Even prior to COVID it was pretty challenging because unemployment was low, which is a good thing for the economy as a whole, but for what we do it makes are jobs challenging in trying to find people,” Nagrocki said.
Donna Avelino, Human Resources Manager at Scotts said their booth had about 40 cars through and had a good stream at the start at 10 a.m. Avelino has been with Scotts Miracle Gro for all of eight days and said the event was going very well.
“We’ve never done a drive-thru job fair. I think this is really going well,” she said.
“As we talk with folks to see if they’ve had prior manufacturing experience, which is important, I may either take their name and have a recruiter contact them, or will ask them to apply or visit one of our partners with Team Staffing or Full Steam Staffing both in Fort Madison.
Avelino said Scotts is currently staffed well but still has positions open.
“Currently we are the fullest we’ve been staffing wise, but we do still have several openings and then there’s turnover,” she said. “So this is a great opportunity to get in front of people.”
Avelino agreed that the event had promise and could be built on.
“What we’ve done so far is a flyer and then we have other information we’re handing out. But looking to the future we could do this again and make it a bit more robust.”