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High employer turnout at job fairs 'a good sign'

Wednesday, February 24, 2010  
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By Sean F. Driscoll
GateHouse News Service
Posted Feb 24, 2010 @ 01:43 PM
ROCKFORD, Ill. — Area colleges are seeing robust attendance at their career fairs as companies looking to hire are turning to recent grads for their staffing needs.

As the economy recovers, companies that need workers are trying to get them on the cheap, said Kelly Cooper, director of career services at Rockford College. That means either getting fresh-out-of-college workers or bringing on interns to fill out the employee rolls.

"They’re saying they don’t want to hire just yet, but having interns on board is something they’re interested in,” Cooper said. "It gives them workers and a chance to build a relationship with a worker, and it gives our students a chance to get some much-needed experience.”

Rockford College had an internship fair Tuesday that attracted 39 companies, far exceeding Cooper’s expectations. She worked with other area colleges to promote the fair, bringing in students from several schools.

Robin Lewis, 42, will graduate from Rockford Career College in June with a degree in business accounting. She met with several companies at the fair and left with quite a few prospects. She said she was encouraged by the high turnout at the fair.

"You just hear so many bad things about trying to find a job. It’s been bad for so long,” she said.
"This was a good sign.”

Rasmussen College held a job fair Feb. 18 that brought 41 companies, all of which were hiring or planned to hire full-time workers in the near future, said Jamie Hintz, career services adviser. Nearly 500 job-seekers, from both Rasmussen classes and the community, attended.

"I think the turnout was a really good sign for the economy,” she said. "I’ve had employers calling me since asking when the next job fair will be because they’re planning on hiring.”

Northern Illinois University held its spring job fair Wednesday at the DeKalb campus. Mary Myers, assistant director of campus and employee relations, said about 127 companies were scheduled to attend. That’s on par with last spring’s turnout but higher than the fall fair, which had about 107 companies.

At last week’s internship fair, about 60 companies attended, she said.

"I would venture to say that last spring, when the economy was really taking a nosedive, companies were participating that weren’t really sure what their hiring situation would be,” she said. "The employers I’ve been speaking with have opportunities and positions to fill.”

Sean F. Driscoll can be reached at (815) 987-1346 or sdriscoll@rrstar.com.

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