Job fair organizers expect high turnout despite missing businesses

Jennifer Lebovich

More than 150 people attended the first day of the third annual Evanston Community Job Fair on Thursday, leading organizers to expect more than a total of 500 people for the two-day event at Evanston Township High School.

This year’s fair combines several previously separate job fairs and targets a broader group of job-seekers, said Michael Gwinn, legislative aide to Illinois Rep. Julie Hamos (D-18), one of the fair’s sponsors.

“Because we’re casting a wider net, there will be a much wider turnout,” Gwinn said. “The job fair will be … a good snapshot of the community and a good representation of businesses in the community.”

Besides Hamos, the fair’s sponsors include the NAACP, the Evanston Chamber of Commerce and the Youth Job Center of Evanston.

About 30 companies were expected, but only 16 were on site, organizers said. The busier booths included Prudential Financial, United Parcel Service, The Gap, the U.S. Navy and Mary Kay.

Amy Harris, executive director of the Youth Job Center, blamed the economy for the poor employer turnout. Still, she emphasized the importance of each individual success.

“One match is one match,” Harris said. “Every job we can give is one less person unemployed.”

ETHS senior James Nickel came to the fair having just quit his job as a waiter.

“I wanna work,” Nickel said, as he filled out an application for The Gap.

Kelly Hutchins, 25, from Chicago said she came to the fair in search of challenging full-time work and was surprised by the small number of employers.

“The fair is a little different than what I’m used to,” Hutchins said. “There are usually more companies, but Evanston isn’t a big community, so I can’t expect a whole lot.”

Hutchins said the job fair catered to high-school students, with many companies offering relatively low-paying part-time jobs.

“I’ve had a lot of jobs,” Hutchins said. “Now I’m trying to focus on a career and put my English degree in place outside of teaching.”

But organizers said people would find work despite the current economic situation.

“I think the amount of people here is evidence that there are jobs available,” said Scot Fontaine, manager of membership sales and development at the Chamber of Commerce.

Fontaine said he expects more employers from the banking industry Friday, which would offer an important boost to the fair.

Joe Martin, 21, of Evanston said the fair was a good chance to get a grasp of the job market. He said he was unsure what type of job he wanted and planned to return today.

“I’m looking for any job that catches my eye,” said Martin, a student at Oakton Community College.

Gwinn said even if Northwestern students are not looking for a job, they could still benefit from attending the event.

“The fair will give students a good idea of what some of the employers are in the region and what kind of skills employers are looking for,” Gwinn said.