ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Employment opportunities are available in Belmont County, but the search for employees is a problem according to Mike Schlanz, workforce supervisor of Ohio Means Jobs in Belmont County.
Schlanz updated the Belmont County Board of Commissioners on activities of the Ohio Means Jobs Center and Workforce Investment Program on Wednesday.
“We are having employers call us, posting jobs, but it’s like everybody, no matter where you are in the state, you have trouble finding people,” he said, adding the situation has been the same throughout the pandemic. “We’ve been open the whole time, our job center, and job seeker foot traffic just dropped off. It dropped off a cliff. No one’s really coming in looking for work. Maybe a few stragglers coming in weekly. It’s been that way for the past year, but we do have employers calling looking for employees.”
In one example, he said Pultney Township continues to seek people to fill road maintenance, sanitation and labor positions. Doctor’s offices are looking for medical assistants. Ohio-West Virginia Excavating also has positions available, but it has been difficult to turn up applicants.
“Hopefully that’s going to change in the coming months,” he said.
However, Schanlz said people are applying for training and applying online through the workforce investment program. A total of 45 adults are enrolled in training in Belmont County, with the most popular subject being a commercial driver’s license.
Schlanz said the summer employment program for local youth will open soon.
“We’re hoping for more (participation) than last year due to the pandemic. Hopefully we’ll get 50, 60 interested kids to work this year,” he said. “They just have to follow proper protocol that’s mandated, required by the employer. That varies from employer to employer.
“If kids are looking for work, they can contact our office for an application and we can go from there.”
The department is also holding virtual job fairs. Belmont County held 13 job fairs prior to 2020 when the pandemic meant its cancellation. The Ohio Valley Mall had hosted the past several, but with COVID-19 persisting and beginning to rise again, job fairs have resumed in a virtual format.
Bradley Wells, business resource network coordinator, summarized the first job fair of 2021.
“We had it on Feb. 25,” he said. “It actually turned out pretty well. We had 44 resume submissions at a time when it seems not a lot of people are looking for work. … There’s a lot of companies hiring, but there’s not too many people searching for work.”
The next fair is set for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 29.
“This is going to be a spring hiring event,” Wells said. “So far, the numbers are looking pretty good. We’ve got 44 businesses registered. I hope to grow those numbers before the event. We just need to attract more job seekers.”
The February fair had 14 registered businesses participating. For April, 47 jobs have been posted and 212 positions are available.
“I know those numbers are ready to jump more in the next week,” he said.
Wells said the first event also had 51 percent of job seekers requesting information on training at one-stop job training and 91 percent said it was their first virtual job fair.
“They’re all virtual,” Wells said, adding the organizers use software purchased with grant funding through the Workforce Development Board Area 16.
“That was the most fearful thing of this virtual job fair — people’s willingness to want to be involved. It’s something new, something people aren’t used to. I’m actually very surprised at the numbers we do have and have been getting for people who want to get involved in this virtual software.”
Wells said the available jobs are mostly open in the health care, engineering and marketing fields.
“It’s kind of widespread. We opened it up to a lot of different industries to try to attract more businesses and, in turn, attract more job seekers.”
Wells said the virtual fairs call for some preparation and adjustment.
“People can either text chat with recruiters, or if a business wants to actually interview a person, they could just video shoot and interview them right on the spot,” he said. “You can do it from the comfort of your own home. I open it for four hours. … If they’re actually employed currently, that gives them an opportunity during their lunch break.
“Don’t be scared of change. This is something that is needed with our current situation,” he said. “It can actually be a great tool.”
He added there is some concern that people might not come across well in this format, as mistakes and oversights tend to be made.
“The human error part is my biggest fear, both in a business setting up their booths, maybe not posting their jobs correctly, wording it correctly, job seekers actually register but don’t actually attend, so you have to set up reminders.”
Wells said the department tries to follow up to determine how many successful hirings come from a job fair, but job seekers and employers have to respond.
The Ohio Means Jobs office is located at 302 Walnut St, Martins Ferry. The phone number is 740-633-5671. The website is belmontcountyconnections.com.