Companies use job fairs to find employees in a tough market


More than 100 employers gathered at the Northwest Montana Careers and Opportunity Fair Thursday, seeking to reach potential employees in a competitive job market.

Although needs and vacancies varied across industries and sectors, employers expressed many of the same concerns: a small hiring pool and difficulties in recruiting or retaining employees due to rising labor costs. lodging. Many say they are offering new perks, hiring bonuses and other incentives to fill positions.

The event, organized by the Daily Inter Lake and the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce, took place at the Flathead County Fairgrounds.

Logan Health is hiring in almost every department, noted hospital recruiter Amy Quinn, who said hiring registered nurses will be their biggest challenge again this year. There has been a national shortage of registered nurses since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Quinn said Logan Health hires all kinds of entry-level jobs starting at $16 an hour. She said the healthcare provider wants to help its employees advance and offer ways to help them continue their education.

“We’re trying to grow our own people,” Quinn said. “So getting to an entry-level position can take you anywhere. Once you leave with us, we have a tuition reimbursement of $3,000 per year. So we also have our hands with local colleges and help people become who they want to be, and help fund that too.

Technology company Applied Materials is taking a similar approach by hiring entry-level employees, training them, and providing them with ways to stay and grow within the company.

Planning and logistics manager Betsy Walhert said the company is hiring for positions in logistics, warehousing, shipping, planning and production.

“We want to promote from within, so that they can move into positions in their careers, take advantage of tuition reimbursement,” she said. “I have two people on my team right now who started from different positions, worked full time and went to school part time.”

The company’s general manager for Montana in November told the Daily Inter Lake that Applied Materials plans to add up to 200 new jobs to Kalispell with its expansion into a new manufacturing facility in Evergreen this year. Their other two Montana facilities are located on Reserve Drive and Birch Grove Road.

ANOTHER BIG Flathead Valley employer, Weyerhaeuser is looking to fill vacancies.

Trisha Federico, senior human resources business partner, said the company is hiring entry-level positions for its Columbia Falls and Kalispell locations, but there are a few factors that make it difficult to hire people.

One is housing, she said, noting that they hired people from out of state who eventually quit after researching housing costs in the area. It is also difficult to hire for their night shifts.

“We’re a 24/7 operation in Columbia Falls, so it’s a challenge, and just competing with other employers in the area in a somewhat limited candidate pool and it’s a candidate market,” said said Federico.

Weyerhaeuser’s Flathead Valley locations have focused their efforts on hiring local people already established here. Federico said the company is also forming partnerships with local schools and creating internships to find new ways to hire in a competitive market.

Other employers like The Wave in Whitefish try to be flexible in filling their entry-level positions, but human resources office manager Lisa Owens, who has worked at the fitness center for 17 years, said the accommodation was l one of the reasons it was difficult to bring in and retain employees.

“I know it affects our ability to recruit our entry-level positions, and even the leadership positions that we have available are a challenge because they can’t find housing,” she said. “Even our winter seasonal workers have to make the transition because they can’t find accommodation in the summer months, so we’ve lost seasonal workers that way.”

A SEASONAL The employer preparing for the summer season is Bigfork’s Flathead Lake Lodge, which is hiring approximately 100 employees.

Dax VanFossen, the lodge’s brand ambassador, said the lodge is trying to hire college-aged students and provide them with housing, avoiding a hurdle that many other companies looking for employees at the lodge do. year cannot overcome.

“So we’re in good shape right now,” he said. “This year we don’t anticipate too many problems with that and I think housing is a big part of that.”

VanFossen said most of their vacancies have already been filled, but they are still looking to fill sous chef, line cooks, housekeeping and office administrator/store clerk positions. of gifts.

HR manager Kristen Lee said she also attributes their ability to fill positions to starting hiring in December when students are home for winter break and consolidating moves for the year. coming.

Pursuit, one of Glacier National Park’s largest employers, is also planning a busy summer season. Lani Mobley, people and culture generalist, said the company is hiring seasonal positions across the company’s many lodges, but in particular it has proven difficult to find candidates to fill positions in the food, catering and beverage industry in recent years.

“Cooking was the biggest struggle, but it was slow and steady. We’ve really built a great team over the years and have great management. But to really fill those seasonal positions in the park, cooking, food and drink are the last to catch up,” Mobley said.

She said the company offers an end-of-season bonus to people who stick around until the end of their contract, as well as other incentives to try to keep candidates interested.

EDUCATION HAS was another sector hard hit by shortages of employees of all kinds, from teachers to bus drivers.

Sandy Evenson of Harlow’s Bus Services said the transit company is offering a $2,000 sign-up bonus for holders of a commercial driver’s license and $1,000 for those who still need one. The contractor provides buses and drivers to public schools in Kalispell, among others.

She said because bus driving is a part-time job, it is difficult to find interested candidates.

“There are a lot of responsibilities that come with this job and you have to follow a lot of guidelines that keep changing — they keep creating more restrictions and rules,” Evenson said.

Evenson said bus driving can be very rewarding work, with drivers building relationships with students and watching them grow. But, the tough job is tough to fill — and like so many other employers, Evenson also cited affordable housing as another reason hiring was tough.


Comments are closed.