By Denise Richardson Staff Writer
The Daily Star
---- — Applicants and employers created a buzz as they exchanged information about work opportunities during a job fair in Oneonta on Wednesday.
About 35 businesses and organizations were signed up for the 2014 Job Fair at the Holiday Inn from 1 to 4 p.m. The Otsego County Chamber of Commerce presented the event, where employers handed out business cards and candidates submitted resumes or application forms.
Recently, the state Labor Department reported that February’s non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for the area reflected decreases from the previous year, and the number of private sector jobs is up.
In Otsego County, the unemployment rates in February 2014 and 2013 respectively were 7.6 percent and 8.9 percent. In Chenango County, the rates were 7.7 percent and 8.9 percent; Delaware, 8.3 percent and 9.9 percent, and in Schoharie, 9.8 percent and 11 percent.
The state’s private-sector job count increased by 117,200 between February 2014 and 2013, the Department of Labor said in a media release Tuesday. As reported last week, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained unchanged at 6.8 percent in February 2014.
The state economy added 12,800 private-sector jobs in February 2014, bringing the state’s private-sector employment count to a record high of 7,543,100 jobs, the release said.
Several local employers at Wednesday’s event said the job fair does result in matches between jobs and applicants. Candidates may be referred to apply online, but putting in a personal appearance can make a difference, they said. And a few job-seekers said they liked the chance to check out multiple opportunities in one location.
Springbrook, The Home Depot, The Plains at Parish Homestead, Sidney Federal Credit Union, Realty USA, Ioxus, A.O. Fox Memorial Hospital, Bassett Healthcare, Oneonta Block Co. and Cooperstown Dreams Park were among the participants Wednesday.
The job fair was sponsored by CDO Workforce, a resource for employers and job-seekers, The Daily Star, Townquare Media and the Holiday Inn.
Joe Stockdale, administrative services manager with CDO Workforce in Oneonta, said the fair Wednesday presented new openings, seasonal employment and training programs. He fielded questions about CDO Workforce services, particularly about assistance in resume-writing.
A job search may have ups and downs, Stockdale said, and his advice is to “stay positive and persistent.” The local seasonal job market may provide short-term employment to gain experience that may be applied for later opportunities, he said.
The Otesaga Resort Hotel in Cooperstown opens April 24, said Terri Winter, director of human resources, said.
“We’re looking to increase our business and we’re looking to increase our staff,” Winter said. The Otesaga, which has been undergoing renovations, projects a busy year, she said, and the usual staffing level of about 330 employees at peak may have to increase up to 400 workers.
Winters said meeting candidates in person can make a lasting impression as applicants and openings are considered. The resort needs maintenance and housekeeping staff, office, front desk and restaurant employees, she said. Many workers return, but others move on and aren’t available for another season.
“It always leaves us holes to fill,” she said.
At tables where candidates quietly filled out applications, Arlene Nygren, of Maryland, was filling out a form to be a part-time bus driver with Oneonta Public Transit. Nygren, a retired postal worker and former teacher, said she is looking for part-time year-round employment.
“I’m very reliable and I’m a hard worker,” she said. Nygren said she has many interests and would consider opportunities working with people, animals and in farming or gardening settings.
“I would like a fun-type job,” she said. “It’s good to be out and meet people.”
Looking beyond job titles is important in today’s employment market, said Alan Sessions, business services representative with CDO Workforce and the state Department of Labor. Unemployment rates change with seasons and opportunities, he said, and job-seekers who try something different may find a position they enjoy.
“Don’t focus on occupations — focus on skills,” Sessions said. “Be flexible in jobs you apply for.”
Mike Condon, residential home coordinator at Arc Otsego, said with lower unemployment rates, the job market may offer broader options. Working for Arc Otsego “isn’t for everyone,” he said, but sometimes trying something different turns into fulfilling employment.
“Be open to new experiences,” Condon said.
Arc Otsego has about 325 employees and about 510 consumers, Condon said. The organization, which provides services for people with disabilities, is looking for direct support workers, bus drivers and Medicaid service coordinators, he said.
Job-seeker Matthew Decker of Oneonta said the fair offered “one-stop job shopping.”
“Everybody’s really nice,” he said. Decker, who would like to work with computers, said he wished there were more entry-level opportunities.
Chelsey Decker, his wife, said she would be filling out multiple applications Wednesday but particularly was interested in the certified-nurse assistant program at Chestnut Park Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Oneonta.
Patti Potter, Chestnut Park admissions director, said the center started a CNA training program in the autumn to help meet a need, and the third class will be offered this spring.
Chestnut Park pays employees minimum wage to take the CNA course and the state required test, Potter said. Employees who successfully complete the program and test are eligible for part-time work, then full-time jobs when available, she said.
The center, which has 95 to 100 employees overall, expects CNAs to stay on for about six months after the program, officials said.
Potter said the job fair was a successful recruiting event. Her supply of 75 applications was down to two near closing time, she said, and interest in the CNA program was high.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Potter said.