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Editorial: Job fair offers great opportunity to find work

Looking for a job? Need a change in careers? Many employment opportunities exist in the Park Rapids area. In fact, more jobs than qualified or willing people to fill them. The trick is getting people to fill those jobs.

Park Rapids is hosting a job fair featuring over 30 local employers on Thursday, March 17, 3-7:30 p.m. at Faithbridge Church.

With an estimated 225 local jobs currently available on a full-time, part-time and seasonal basis in the area a great opportunity for employment exists in many different areas.

These jobs are described as geared to a multigenerational workforce and the job fair as a means to break down the communication barrier between employers and job-seekers.

"The job issue is the number one concern we hear about," Park Rapids Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce director Nicole Lalum said recently. "Our board of directors made this issue a top priority in our 2016 Program to Work and as such, there are numerous issues we are collaborating on.

Lalum is right. There are numerous groups working to address the workforce needs in our community. Last week, an estimated 80 people attended the Northwoods Community Conversations meeting to discuss why these jobs aren’t being filled.

We know the people are here, and we know there are people here not working.

The group addressed three key questions: Why do you think our community has more jobs than people to fill them? How does this impact you? What would it take to create change?

Enterprise reporter Jean Ruzicka writes about the meeting in a front page story in today’s newspaper.

Ideas and concerns emerged ranging from the lack of a vocational technical school to a need for low-cost housing to noncompetitive wages and transportation. Some people suggested a job training center, others a community-based job bank to create a job infrastructure.

Barriers do exist for those struggling to make ends meet, many depending on state and county services.

A good number of folks in the community deal with social issues that make it difficult to find and hold down a job. Lack of permanent housing, transportation difficulties, childcare challenges, chemical dependency, mental health issues, or just plain lack of motivation. At the same time there are also many who face these same issues and overcome the obstacles. It can be done.

Social services, mental health professionals and other providers in the community work to get people "off the system" and on the road to self-reliance.

Yes, these issues and obstacles are real and there is no simple solution, but what’s also real is support and assistance provided by agencies should be a way of working toward self-sufficiency, not a means of permanent dependence. For some, yes, and that’s why we have the system in place, but many others have the ability and opportunity to get themselves back on track. A lot of positive change can occur for a person and a family by getting a job and earning a living wage.

The jobs are definitely out there. Good jobs, with benefits, flexible schedules and on-the-job training.

The list of employers at Thursday’s job fair represents a wide variety of career opportunities, really something for everyone who is looking and genuinely interested in working.

"This is as big as all of us," Lalum said. "It affects every single person, residents and employees alike in some way. To create change, we need the conversations going, the sharing of data and ideas, interweaving among small and large groups of community in order to move to an actionable plan."

Workforce and employment issues have been discussed for months now and this week’s job fair is a great opportunity for everyone as we prepare for the busy summer season throughout the community.

Check out the job fair. The opportunity is there and local employers are begging for people to work.

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