The Columbia Valley Centre was packed with job seekers and those wanting to snap them up on Thursday, February 20 at the inaugural Job and Entrepreneur Fair. Employers dressed their best and attempted to lure prospective employees to their booths with big smiles, snacks, candy and displays with golf clubs and tubes for pulling riders behind boats.

Justine Swindell came armed with a dozen resumes as she sought a future match. While she’s currently taking office administration at the College of the Rockies, she was “gauging what’s out there” to determine where she’d like to work when she completes her education.

“It was really valuable,” she said. “You just … introduce yourself as much as possible and hand out your resume.”

Eden Yesh, an event organizer with WorkBC Employment Services Society, said he was impressed with how many businesses participated, the number of eager job seekers who came through the doors, and how the event essentially filled the Columbia Valley Centre, the “biggest space available.” He estimated that around 40 employers and organizations that offer services for entrepreneurs were represented at the fair and that close to 120 candidates scoped out the opportunities available to them.

Some candidates showed up with folders full of resumes and headed straight to their preferred businesses’ booths, where they “zoned in on those employers and tried to have some conversations,” Yesh said.

While all job seekers were invited to attend regardless of where they call home, only valley employers were allowed to participate in order to keep local talent in the community.

“It’s a good opportunity to retain employees who might be here for the winter months,” Yesh said.

Bailey Yeats from Copper Point Resort said the fair was “amazing” and that “the people that are looking for jobs are such good candidates.”

With 40 to 50 positions to fill, most of which are summer roles in housekeeping or food services, the event gave her team the opportunity to stockpile resumes and potentially fill some vacancies.

Over at the Home Hardware booth, staff were so enthusiastic about one candidate that they invited him to the back of the hall to join them for a sit-down interview.

Jesse Simpkins, who was left to manage the booth, said she was impressed with that particular candidate and with the job fair in general.

“It’s been a hard year (for employers),” she said. “People can’t move here right now … We can’t hire them because they can’t find a place to stay.”

But the job fair is addressing that challenge by matching prospective employees who already live in the valley with the opportunities available here.

Simpkins said her team was inclined to extend offers to two or three of the candidates who approached their booth and hopes those job seekers will soon join her on staff.

Blooming World Cannabis may have also found its match. Marjorie Fournier flipped through the eight resumes she collected at the event and said with a grin: “there’s one that we really like.”

Emma Pattinson, from Interior Health, was almost giddy as she approached Pete Bourke, executive director of the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce, with good news.

“We may have a new recruit,” she announced. “I may have just hired a casual.”

Like the employers, Bourke said job seekers were excited about their potential matches, adding that one of the objectives behind the fair was “to make sure people were aware of what’s available to them in the valley.”

Penny Powers, who is hiring for up to seven positions with Columbia River Paddle, said the job fair was “definitely productive” and that candidates who might not have considered her business now have her paddling and guiding opportunities on their radars.

Shannon McGinty, Lake Windermere Ambassador program coordinator, was also thrilled with the interest she got from job seekers visiting her booth. She is preparing to go on maternity leave and is looking to fill her own role. When her position was first posted she had a “freak out” about how few applications were coming in and said she worried that “no one wants my job.” But then applications began piling in. In addition to gathering resumes at the fair, she also scouted out potential volunteers.

Midway through the fair, organizers weren’t aware of how many job opportunities employers had brought with them or how many offers may come as a result, but they intend to survey participating businesses and service providers.

Bourke said the fair – which was offered through a partnership between the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce, WorkBC Employment Services Society, Columbia Valley Community and Economic Development Office, Tourism Radium, Radium Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce, True Key Hotels and Resorts, Kanata, Mountain Hub and the District of Invermere – was “a great show of collaboration” and one he would like to repeat.