Tables were set up with representatives and employers from local businesses, but a lack of potential employees and applicants to talk to.

That was the visual representation of the struggles employers are facing these days while trying to fill vacant positions.

The Columbia Job Center hosted its biweekly Walk-In Wednesdays job fair Wednesday morning until early afternoon. Ten local employers registered to be at the event, including Central Bank, Right at Home, JobFinders, Advantage Home Care and USPS.

The turnout seemed to be lower than usual, according to the employers participating.

Abby Pascoe, Central Bank’s human resources recruiter, noted that there’d only been around 15 people who’d visited her table rather than the typical 20 to 25.

This was a common theme. Nico Gage, the operations manager for JobFinders, said she'd talked to seven people who showed interest in potential positions during the three-hour job fair.

Employers cited multiple reasons for difficulty hiring employees.

When asked about the main barriers to employment, Elizabeth Quisenberry, Right at Home’s human resources administrator, said that “applications trickle in slowly” and that “communication is a big hurdle; I’ll call someone two or three times and send them texts and emails but never hear back from them.”

Gage said , “The pandemic made it more difficult to place people in positions because of government incentives that enabled people to not work.”

Special federal unemployment programs targeting those impacted by COVID-19 ended Sept. 5. Missouri ended the additional benefits in June.

Robin Morrison, a Central Bank call center supervisor, attributes the lack of employees to a lower pool of applicants due to COVID-19, saying “there were 600,000 COVID deaths (nationally), and a majority of them had to be people that were in the workforce.”

Employers understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and have been adjusting accordingly.

Gage said that JobFinders had been operating virtually throughout the pandemic until February 2021. Gage said that “as employers, we have to be more mindful, patient, and empathetic” when considering the effects that the pandemic had on the public.

Pascoe said that Central Bank is “working to get back to normal and trying to be more conscious” of the changes that the coronavirus has introduced.

Potential employees are encouraged to have positive skills to bring to the table when applying.

Many of the employers at the event shared common thoughts, noting that they’re looking for applicants who are driven, dependable, customer-service oriented, have an eagerness to learn and, specifically for Right at Home and Advantage Home Care, have a passion about caring for others.

Pascoe summarized Central Bank’s desired qualities, saying that they want “people that value their work as much as we value them.”

The Columbia Job Center’s supervisor, Nichelle Pool, said in a news release that her “goal is to introduce job seekers to employers so they can develop a relationship which may lead to a job.”

The next Walk-In-Wednesday job fair is at 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Oct. 6 at the Columbia Job Center, 101 Park De Ville Drive. People are encouraged to call 573-441-6361, email nichelle.pool@dhewd.mo.gov or visit cwdregion.com/wiw for more information regarding the event.

For more COVID-19 related news, see our section dedicated to COVID-19 updates.
  • Government reporter, fall 2021, contact me at kolbyarimoto@mail.missouri.edu or in the newsroom at 573-882-5720.

  • Fred Anklam manages city and county government reporters. He can be reached at anklamf@missouri.edu or in the newsroom at 573-882-5720.

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