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Hundreds gather for job fair in West Plains

Published: Jul. 22, 2021 at 5:56 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 22, 2021 at 6:10 PM CDT
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WEST PLAINS, Mo. (KY3) - Organizers of a hiring event held Thursday, July 22 in West Plains are calling it a resounding success.

Forty-two companies attended the event, looking to fill 515 job openings in Howell County.

The Economic Development Corporation of West Plains worked with the City and the South Central Workforce Development Corporation to host the event. They estimated that more than 400 job seekers attended.

David Bossemeyer, director of the EDC, said employers have struggled to find workers during the past year. “We’re coming out of the pandemic, so to speak, and we’re coming out of some of the incentives that were offered that are no longer going to be offered,” said Bossemeyer, “So people are actually looking to get back into the workplace.”

Matt Owens manages three Penmac offices that connect workers with jobs. “Penmac has seen a really nice change, honestly, since the federal dollars have stopped,” he said. “A lot more talent, they’re looking again, and that’s just a beautiful sight, really.”

A manager at a West Plains nursing and rehab center said the pandemic created havoc for their facilities. “We usually run about 182 workers for our campus, and right now the skilled facility has 146,” said Rachel Judd of West Vue Nursing & Rehab. “We need custodians, nurses, cooks--pretty much all types of employees.”

Lori Wilson, superintendent of West Plains Schools, echoed that sentiment. “At this fair, we’re looking more for non-teaching positions,” said Wilson. “But I can tell right now there’s a huge teaching shortage in the state of Missouri and nationwide, so we’re hitting those types of fairs, also. But today, we’re really looking for custodians, paraprofessionals, secretarial work; we have quite a few openings that we need to fill.”

Ben Webb will graduate in December with a mechanical engineering degree. He attended the job fair to try to line up a job in West Plains. “There’s a lot of manufacturing facilities down here like DRS, Caterpillar,” said Webb, “So I’m looking to talk to those companies.”

Eighteen-year-old Melanie Hann has a job at a fast-food restaurant, but she’s hoping to find something else. “I got sick with COVID, and there’s a lot of mental stuff going on,” said Hann. “And I just had to break through that and just get up, and go find a job, somewhere that’s closer, somewhere that’s better for me. So, this event really is a blessing.”

Those who could not attend the Hiring Event can visit www.jobs.mo.gov for a list of the employers who are hiring or visit one of the many Job Centers in the Ozarks.

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