As Canada celebrates Small Business Week this week, people in this region find themselves in the strange paradox of living in a province with the highest unemployment rate in Canada, but also a market where employers are, in some cases, starved for talent.
The Mount Pearl - Paradise Chamber of Commerce tried to address that conundrum last month by holding a job at the Reid Community Centre. Some 29 companies set up booths to meet prospective employees and take resumes from the 250 or so job seekers who showed up.
Among them were three students from Bangladesh, Marium Oishee, Fabiha Darannum and Samiha Subah.
“It was pretty good," Oishee said of the job fair. "There were lots of employers from different fields."
Oishee is looking for part time work, preferably in retail, while she completes her studies.
"The job fair was pretty good, actually," agreed Darannum, a business administration student at the College of the North Atlantic. "It was the first time I attended one, so I was nervous, but it was good."
Darannum said it is tough finding work in the St. John's area.
"I am also looking for a part time job, because I am going to start my education this winter semester," said Subah. "So I'm looking for a part time job, hopefully in retail, or a coffee shop."
Subah said she hopes to live in Canada as a citizen someday. "But the education is the most important part (for coming here now)," she said. "Once I'm done with my education, hopefully, if possible, I will try to live here."
All three live in St. John's. Getting around to job interviews is difficult, Oishee admitted, because they don't have a car.
The chamber's executive director, Wanda Palmer, said there was a good reason for holding the job fair. "Our community needed it," said Palmer. "We have members, and businesses, who are starving for employees."
Reflecting on the number of people who came looking for work, Palmer observed, "That's telling you something."
Palmer said the employers were pleased with the turnout. "They had a fabulous turnout today," said Palmer. "The couldn't get over the quality and quantity of people who came through."
out. "They had a fabulous turnout today," said Palmer. "The couldn't get over the quality and quantity of people who came through."
The chamber's vice president, Dave Halliday, who was also on hand for the event, was with a company that reflected some of the reason for the disconnect between the high unemployment rate and companies needing talented people.
"We're in a unique position because we've only been in this market under the Bonshaw name for one year now," said Halliday, a marketing consultant with Bonshaw Media, a digital marketing company. "So we've been kind of going through a start-up phase, kind of just getting out the brand of Bonshaw. So it's been challenging in that way, because nobody really knew who Bonshaw was... We only operate with a team of three people here in St. John's, but over the next year we'll probably be looking at a little more growth and taking on a few more people."
Halliday said the job fair was bigger in terms of employer and job seeker turnout than one held last spring.