Flint, MI—Hundreds of job seekers descended on the Dort Federal Credit Union Event Center Sep. 16 for Genesee County’s largest in-person job fair since COVID-19 closures began.

The fair came on the heels of federal unemployment benefits expiring, but a surprising number of attendees were already employed and there to speak with companies—ranging from healthcare and manufacturing to hospitality and policing—about opportunities for better.

“I want full-time and benefits,” said one man who has a part-time job with the Michigan Transportation Authority. (He asked that Flint Beat not use his name since his employer didn’t know he was job searching.) 

“The pandemic is slowing down and people are getting vaccinated,” he said. “So now feels like the time.”

He said he came to the fair with 12 resumes to hand out to the companies he was most interested in, but he was also filling out applications that five employers had handed him.

Aside from the opportunity to apply in-person, some employers were hiring onsite as well.

One of those employers was YouthQuest, a Flint-based after-school program that took advantage of the interview booths set up on the far side of the event floor.

“We hired one person already today,” said Samantha Caldwell from behind YouthQuest’s table. 

Caldwell said YouthQuest was looking to hire around 20 people for learning guide and certified learning guide roles across their 15 sites. 

“So far, so good!” she added.

Across from Caldwell’s table was Miller Industries, LLC, where human resources assistant manager Brittany Smith and HR generalist Kim Frederick were speaking with a host of interested candidates for roles in welding, engineering, purchasing, and more.

“There have been more people than we expected,” said Smith. “And they are coming with wide-ranging skillsets.” 

Smith said she thought they’d meet a lot of folks looking for factory shifts, which was highlighted most prominently on their flyer, but she and Frederick had spoken to candidates with engineering and sales experience as well.

Though Miller Industries wasn’t hiring onsite, Frederick noted how much better this fair had been compared to the virtual ones she had attended through the pandemic.

“I think when you’re home you just get distracted,” Frederick said. “It’s easy to say ‘Eh, nevermind.’ But today it feels almost normal.” 

Tyler Rossmaessler, executive director of the Flint & Genesee Alliance, estimated the fair had around 400 attendees over the course of the afternoon.

“I think the trend is eagerness,” he said of the job seekers he’d spoken to. Like the team from Miller Industries, Rossmaessler was also impressed by the diversity of candidates present.

“I’ve spoken with people who have computer science degrees looking for IT work,” he said, “and people looking for manufacturing jobs. There are folks looking for part time, full time … it’s been great.”

Outside the center, one man said he’d gotten three job offers onsite. (He also asked that Flint Beat not use his name since he’s currently employed.)

“Today was successful,” he said, and smiled, tucking paperwork into a crisp manila folder.

He said the he works as a third shift machinist at a nearby factory, but at 54, he believes he won’t get promoted to first shift before reaching the end of his career. 

“Both me and my wife are looking toward retirement,” he said. “And we know we can do better for ourselves.”

Kate is Flint Beat's associate editor. She joined the team as a corps member of Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues....