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In tight labor market, employers step up job-fair game

Pedro J. Gratacos, HR analyst and statewide diversity recruiter for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, stands by one of the displays at his booth at the York County Economic Alliance's annual career fair at York Revolution's PeoplesBank Park on Thursday. - (Photo / Emily Thurlow)

Year after year, the York County Economic Alliance holds a career fair. This year, it’s the job-seekers in the driver’s seat.

About seven or eight years ago, attendance was in the 700s, said Kevin Schreiber, president and CEO of the agency. During Thursday’s annual gathering at York Revolution’s PeoplesBank Park, however, attendance was just above 300.

“We’re seeing more people that already have jobs looking for advancement versus people in need of jobs,” said Schreiber.   

With unemployment low, the ball is in the court of the recruiter. For the more than 80 employers that were looking to fill positions at the fair, it meant trying to stand out.

Some employers offered colorful branded giveaway items like T-shirts and water bottles, while others had large displays detailing their company’s benefits.

Nearly 20 companies noted that they would consider hiring candidates with criminal histories on a case-by-case basis, said Sully Pinos, director of business solutions and innovation at YCEA. Among some of the groups that were listed were Frito-Lay, WellSpan Health and UPMC Pinnacle.

“Employers also took the career fair as a pre-screening opportunity or chance to have an interview with an a candidate that day,” said Pinos.

Service-based companies like restaurant Quaker Steak & Lube  made a point to be standing in front of their booths. It’s important to connect with people when you’re looking to fill positions, said Tom Nowka, regional director of JDK Management Co., a franchisee of Perkins and Quaker Steak & Lube restaurants.

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections also provided a stanchion that outlined careers in human services, healthcare, dentistry, food services and more. Inmates in an institution require almost all of the services that people in a community require, said Pedro J. Gratacos, human resource analyst and statewide diversity recruiter for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.

“We have basically small cities at our 26 different facilities, so while we’ll need corrections officers, we need other professionals to achieve our mission,” he said. 

Kristen Pittman, HR manager for Magnesita Refractories Co., emphasized the need for a family-work balance and played up the $21 per hour pay rate for many of its blue-collar job openings. She also noted how the company was growing and recently received a grant to fund a number of new positions.

“We spend so much of our waking hours at work, it’s important for us to have that work-family balance. We hold a lot of family outings like a day at the ballpark recently. That matters. The average tenure of our employees is 16 years,” said Pittman.



Emily Thurlow
​Emily Thurlow covers York County​ for the Central Penn Business Journal. Have a tip? Drop her a line at [email protected].

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