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Apr 7, 2023
Daily Inter Lake

Employers at Job Fair Look To Increase Perks To Attract Workers

By Summer Zalesky

The Northwest Montana Job and Opportunity Fair hosted over 100 employers in fields such as technology, education, real estate, hospitality and more on Thursday at the Flathead County Fairgrounds.

Whether it's to compete with other employers or to create a livable income, several employers said they are raising wages and beefing up benefits packages to attract potential employees.

Barbara Otey, the director’s assistant at Discovery Developmental Center, said that as a childcare facility, it can be difficult to find qualified applicants. The childcare and preschool is hiring both full time and part time positions in order to meet the childcare demand.

“Historically this field hasn’t paid good wages. We’re trying to change that and do a lot of advocacy work with the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce and we have increased wages and benefits,” said Otey. “We’re really trying to pay people a competitive wage to keep them in this business and show them that this is a long term career option. It’s not just something you do right out of high school because you don’t know what else to do, it’s something that you do for your whole life.”

Seasonal jobs such as rafting, are having an easier time recruiting as they can target college students who need a summer job.

Cathi Beers and Jessamyn Ludwig of Great Northern Whitewater Raft and Resort said that because they are an outdoor and adventure company, they always have a pool of applicants. However, the company has also had to raise wages in order to compete with other rafting outfits.

“We’re looking for people who have a passion for being outside and who are working toward being a steward of the land,” Ludwig said. “Our focus is really on the individual and how they operate within the community. We also have a lot of perks. You get to use our equipment. We're right next to the park and we have a lot of community meals for our employees so they get fed quite often.”

Job seekers expressed priorities in terms of finding fulfilling work that they enjoy. Some even said that they would forsake traditional benefits to be able to work in a field that they love.

One job seeker, Beth Calderon, said that while she is looking for a job with good pay, she would compromise in order to work an exciting job.

“I believe that if you can go to work everyday and enjoy what you do, you’re going to wake up everyday excited and there won’t be a brick wall that you’ll hit,” Calderon said.

Savannah Long, another job seeker, expressed a similar sentiment.

“I’d like a job that’s more hands-on and where I get to be social,” she said. “If I’m not doing something I love, why would I go to work everyday?”

ON THE employer side, Laura Cox at Integrated Security Solutions said that the company already offers high wages, but has continued to build incentives to catch the eye of job seekers.

“Our technicians travel all over the U.S. and even the world,” said Cox. “We have some technicians in Germany and Turkey. It’s very appealing. We pay for all your travel and for you to go to cool places. We give bonuses so there’s a lot of incentives.”

The security company is hiring almost all positions from technicians, project managers, warehouse workers, cybersecurity specialists, and proposal writers. Cox said that they are interested in recruiting and training graduating college students to make it easier for them to transition to the workforce.

“If they’re willing and able to learn, we’ll get them to do what we need them to do,” she said.

In terms of public sector jobs, such as with the Montana Department of Justice and the Department of Corrections, recruiters said that pension and benefits packages are what draws applicants. While both entities are well known for their law enforcement jobs, the departments also offer jobs in business management, IT, and education.

Armando Oropeza, Talent Acquisition for the Montana Department of Justice said the goal is to find the right fit for the candidate.

“I ask candidates, ‘What’s your life potential?’ And then I lead them down a path,” he said. “I have to think about where they will be happiest and look for that.”

The job fair is a joint effort between Job Service Kalispell, Discover Kalispell Chamber, Flathead Valley Community College and the Daily Inter Lake.