Students, seasonal workers, area business representatives and key representatives of the military, parks, DNR, and museums met today at the Saint Ignace Little Bear East Arena. Prospective employers provided applications, accepted resumes and even conducted mini-interviews as they talked with hundreds of young (and no-so-young) people looking for seasonal employment, as well as year around jobs in a highly charged and competitive setting. Join me as I saw everything from a bus load of local high school students to a well-educated engineer trying to find the right job in the right place here at the Job Fair.
The Saint Ignace Chamber of Commerce reminded everyone on facebook last night: “St. Ignace Job Fair – Be sure to take advantage of this opportunity to apply for a variety of jobs in one convenient location. April 22 – 9:00 am – Noon. Little Bear East, 275 Marquette Street.” A bus load and countless cars filled with senior students and class of 2010 graduating seniors, many of whom are close friends of my own son Vincent’s were on hand early this morning at the Little Bear East Arena downtown. Joining them were men and women of all ages, even senior citizens, from around the state, the eastern Upper Peninsula, and the general Straits Area of Michigan.
My first stop was over at the table set up for Java Joe’s Cafe.
Java Joe himself was interviewing and accepting applications from a variety of people, while bantering with High School Principal Don Gustafson. Mr. Gustafson heads the local Republican Party activities and is a devout conservative, while Java Joe lives up to his appearance as a 60’s refugee transplanted into the 21st Century and devout Democratic Party leader in Mackinac County. Their friendly debate was interspersed with some specific recommendations of particular applicants and “Mr. G” had a birds eye view of the many LaSalle High School students who took advantage of the school bus and mini-morning field trip to the Little Bear East and its job fair.
Dan St. Onge was one of the sharp young men vying for jobs at Java Joe’s. I pointed out his academic and athletic achievements while Mr. Gustafson explained that a small bruise on his face came from the result of a tumble in hurdles…Dan actually crawled across the finish line in order to place second. Now THAT’S the kind of dedication you need to land a job in Michigan with this economy!
Saint Ignace lies at a key crossroads in the Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan. We’re one of just a few “gateway communities” to the UP, with the added attraction of being at the North End of the Mighty Mackinac Bridge. We’re also home to the three ferry services offering transportation to the world-renowned Grand Hotel and Mackinac Island, Arnold Transit, Star Line and Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry Service. I spoke at length with Chris, who was manning the booth at Star Line. My own son Vincent worked for Chris back when he was just 14 on his first “real” job. Chris told me he’s taken dozens and dozens of applications today and agreed that the competition for jobs is fierce. The boat lines are quite popular with young and energetic men and women who enjoy working around the massive ships, outdoors, and those preferring action and visibility in the workplace.
References and recommendations are thoroughly checked and the screening process is extensive, due to the requirements of maritime law and immigration screening. Vince enjoyed working for Chris and is hoping, as an adult, to earn a spot as deck hand — even if he has to wait through a season as greeter again. The ferry lines most often employ returning workers and college students are a prime target. My own husband, Vincent’s dad Warren, worked as a deck hand when he was in college. His father-in-law back then was Jack Barnhill, who used to own the dock area where Star Line operates today.
I spotted our retired postmaster, the infamous Ollie Boynton, walking into the arena and wondered if even he was seeking work as he’s now well into his 70’s! Trailing him over to the Fort du Buade table, I saw he was actually interviewing people for jobs in his role as one of the founding members of the Michilimackinac Historical Society. Having purchased the collection and building where Fort du Buade stood many years under private ownership, my favorite postmaster and family friend is interviewing people to work as cashiers in the free museum. Employees at the museum not only sell souvenirs and books tied to the museum, they are informal ambassadors to our community.
They’re often looked to for advice in the downtown area. Workers field questions on everything from where to stay or eat and which ferry to catch to specific questions about the history of the town, the Native American population and other tidbits on the lore of the 3rd oldest continuously occupied settlement in America. Ollie graciously posed for a photograph with his fellow society member and two job seekers–a young man and the energetic, smiling young woman visible in my photographs.
My last stop, after snagging a complimentary peanut butter cookie, was the Army Recruiter’s table. Sergeant David W. Cowell and I exchanged old war stories, as I am a retired military veteran with enlisted experience in the Army back in the 1970’s. Sergeant Cowell underscored the fact that very few people are even qualified for the Army. Without a high school diploma, good physical health, and unblemished record, you’ll have a difficult time making it past the extensive screening for military background checks and physicals. About six college courses will offset a GED, but a simple Minor in Possession (MIP) ticket closes that same door. We discussed the relative merits of living in Korea, combat experience in the desert, and the changes over the past four decades, and I even earned a nice camouflage pen during my interview. Sergeant Cowell was professional, genial, and a great representative for the Army. He had facts and figures to back up every answer…out of 15 potential recruits, only 3 met standards.
During the fair, Sandy Durm joined her husband at Java Joe’s table for a short period. I observed a nicely dressed, good looking young man, with one of the most impressive resumes I’ve ever seen, work his way through four tables. An engineer with a Romanian accent, he explained that he was looking here as jobs just weren’t available in his specialty in this area. He was well prepared with his resume, he had dressed professionally, and was quite personable and affable. He would probably do well in helping people prepare for interviews, as he definitely seemed to be well educated, if not a bit overqualified for seasonal work washing dishes. The important thing was that he is willing to work and did much to promote himself all over the arena. As Sandy noted, appearance is an important aspect of working in the public. We talked about extensive piercings and tattoos, dressing for an interview, presenting yourself to prospective employers and how this can affect employment. Having established successful businesses in several states, Sandy has hired (and occasionally released) massive amounts of employees over the years.
Vince finished up with a very firm job offer, a positive meeting with Star Line, and a great experience in interviewing and passing out a lot of resumes in a short time period. It’s an intimidating venue at first, but meeting up with friends and conversations/encouragement from “almost family people” like Java Joe and Sandy helped bolster his courage and allowed him the momentum to successfully complete his first trip to a job fair. Looking forward to next year, l hope to visit the event again, as the complimentary peanut butter cookies and other swag definitely made the trip worthwhile.