Berkshire Career Fair aims to match prospects with bounty of jobs

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Photo Gallery | Berkshire Career Fair in Pittsfield

PITTSFIELD — Representatives of 53 local businesses scanned crowds of job seekers at Berkshire Hills Country Club on Thursday, looking to make eye contact, start a conversation.

More than a few matches were made among these and the roughly 250 candidates who milled about the packed room Thursday.

"We'll absolutely hire" people met at Thursday's career fair, said Bill Rech, a General Dynamics fleet documentation and training technology manager.

"We've looked at a few very good prospects," said Spring Williams, an accounts payable employee of Pittsfield Plastics Engineering & Precision Spools.

Affair organizers Berkshire Chamber of Commerce touted "opportunities" for area residents to find "diverse" work.

June Roy-Martin, vice president of chamber member services said jobs were available in "manufacturing to administration to education" and more. "Blue collar, white collar, grey collar."

"I've talked to [job seekers leaving the fair] who said they talked to a lot of people, collected a lot of business cards, now it's up to me to get busy," Roy-Martin said. "Our role is to help make those connections. The other thing is some of the employers are getting to know each other. There's some networking that they do as well, which is always beneficial."

Job openings in the Berkshires are up to 2,300 from an average of 1,500 to 1,800, according to January figures.

Berkshire Chamber President and CEO Jonathan Butler said 1Berkshire, the countywide organization that houses the chamber and its other arms, seeks to be a hub, connecting employers to job seekers.

"When you have over 2,000 available jobs, it's not just about bringing in more new jobs," he said. "It's about creating a pipeline from the unemployed to the workforce. How do we do a better job of preparing and training a local workforce?"

It's a tricky task, Butler acknowledges, but it's one that he said must include collaboration with local high schools and colleges.

A second part involves a "philosophical change" away from costly attempts to bring big-time employers into the area and toward using available resources to "strengthen smaller businesses" and empower entrepreneurs.

"We have a lot of resources [in the Berkshires], but we've never done a great job of networking those resources," he said. "We can be that central conduit. When businesses connect with us, we can build those pipelines to suit specific employer needs. You're helping a business be viable here and offering people quality jobs."

General Dynamics, seeking to fill more than 100 positions, may have been the biggest fish in the room. Systems, program and mechanical engineers, software technicians and developers, business managers and technical writers were among the available positions.

"We're looking to hire as soon as possible," Rech said.

"Yesterday," added Jeff Daury, a planning and material control manager at the company.

But plenty of promising opportunities could be found elsewhere.

Entry-level manufacturing positions at Onyx Specialty Papers, for instance, promised in-house training and more than $40,000 — a possible boon for a young applicant.

"The college track is not for everyone," said Human Resources Manager Mike Tullock. "This is an opportunity to make good money with plenty of chances to progress up the ranks."

Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Stockbridge, meanwhile, sought cooks, housekeepers and more.

"It's always interesting to get out and talk to people, find out what they're looking for," employee Ruth Francis said.

The Kripalu table drew particular traffic via an enticing bribe: chocolate cookies made by staff at the health-conscious yoga retreat.

Contact Phil Demers at 413-496-6214.


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