Published: 9/27/2023 4:54:11 PM
Modified: 9/27/2023 4:53:23 PM
HOLYOKE — Job applicants traditionally attend a career fair in their best business attire with resumes in hand, anxiously reviewing the best answers to the possible interview questions before stepping into a gymnasium or event hall lined with table after table of company representatives.
Yet this week MassHire Holyoke introduced a new type of job fair to western Massachusetts, one without all the preparation or suits. In fact, it doesn’t require leaving the car.
Drive-thru job fairs are career expos where job seekers receive information on job opportunities or network with employers from their vehicle. Prospective employees fill out a form about their job interests and receive a bag full of brochures, flyers and contact information of businesses seeking new hires in the preferred industry.
These types of professional development events grew in popularity during the coronavirus pandemic as an alternative to virtual career expos and online networking events.
Over 50 businesses participated in MassHire’s drive- thru job fair on Tuesday in the Steam Building parking lot where the career center employees handed out job bags with career opportunities in education, health, manufacturing and service industries. MassHire conducted the fair to innovate the way career expos are conducted and raise awareness of their new location at 208 Race St.
“I believe I was trying to cater it to the new workforce,” said Marlene Caroles, who organized the fair as part of her job as business service representative at MassHire Holyoke. “Society has moved at such a fast pace with modern technology with the advancements of phones and coming out of COVID, it’s a whole different world. Even though I’m 50-something years old, I think we have to adapt to the new generation [whose] looking for ways to be creative but also at the same time try to find their calling in the new careers or new opportunities.”
Caroles explained her focus on manufacturing, education, health and service fields originates from the growing opportunities in vocational and trade jobs. The addition of online courses, for instance, offers more opportunities for learning, teaching and training in the education sector.
112 people attended the job fair, drawn in by the convenience of the event. Luis Rodriguez and Anna Silva, both students at Holyoke Community College’s MGM Culinary Arts Institute, walked across the street to learn more about local opportunities in education.
Tamara Smith noted the ease compared to her last job fair, where she interviewed with various companies and then waited for a response. Smith prefers the physical resources from the job bags over leaving interviews empty-handed.
“Instead of just having a whole room full of people, you can drive in, grab what you are interested in and go,” Smith said.
Drive-thru job fairs not only create accessible work opportunities for job seekers, but the businesses as well. Companies seeking applicants may lack the employees to send a representative to a traditional fair. Curbside career fairs alleviate this burden from companies since recruiters do not need to be at the event to pass along information about their company.
“It’s a simple way for the businesses to participate because they don’t even have to be here,” said Cindy Gagnon, a resource center specialist at MassHire Holyoke. “That’s a thing that we have a hard time with when we have job fairs. A lot of businesses don’t have the capability to send someone to represent the company at the job fair physically.”
Anyone who attended the career event also registered for MassHire’s services, most of which are still offered at the nonprofit’s old location on 850 High St. until it eventually merges with the new space on Race Street. Gagnon said a real estate for lease sign on the High Street building leads some to believe the office is closed, but MassHire is currently using both locations. Services for businesses and youth are held at the Steam Building while resource and counseling centers are at the old building.
“We have a lot of free services to help job seekers look for jobs,” Gagnon said, noting that people can walk in and get help.