Dennis Mathews knows exactly what type of job he wants: hard, manual labor.
“I can pick stuff up. I can work hard. I can work long hours,” he said.
And he knows exactly what type of job he doesn’t want.
“I don’t want to have to deal with people,” Mathews said.
The 20-year-old Centralia man joined hundreds of job seekers Wednesday afternoon at the Southwest Washington job fair, hosted by U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, at the Red Lion Hotel Vancouver at the Quay.
There were more than 70 different employers represented at the event, ranging from the Washington State Patrol to Wal-Mart.
Compared to a couple of years ago, the job market in Southwest Washington has picked up tremendously. The county is also expected to see a boost in high-wage jobs, according to information from Scott Bailey, a regional labor economist for the Washington State Employment Security Department.
Banfield Pet Hospital recently announced it’s moving its headquarters to Vancouver, and Integra shifted 500 telecom jobs from Portland to Vancouver this year.
Fisher Investments, which had a booth at the job fair, is working on its second office building in Camas, which would allow for another 400 workers.
John Holmstron, 40, of Vancouver stopped by the Fisher Investments booth. He’s been out of work since January after he realized working as a commercial real estate broker was not a good fit for him. Dressed in a crisp collared shirt and slacks, Holmstron said he’s the type of guy who watches financial shows on television simply because he finds it fun. He would love to be a financial adviser. Upon leaving the jobs fair, he said he plans to email the people he met from Fisher his résumé and follow up with them soon.
Herrera Beutler told the crowd that she started the job fair four years ago at the height of the recession. The congresswoman said employers had told her there were jobs available but they were having a hard time connecting with employees.
The job fair was born, she said, to help make those connections.
The event kicked off in the early afternoon and was scheduled to last until 5 p.m.
Darrel Miller, 73, retired in 2011 from a good job, but after his adult daughter was involved in a car crash and could no longer work, she ended up moving in with Miller and his wife. It meant money got a little tighter and Miller decided to start looking for a job again. Plus, he said, he was “used to hard work” and missed feeling productive. He was on the hunt for a janitor-type gig.
On the other end of the age range, Ivee Walker, 18, was filling out applications to work at a local pizza place and desk jobs, including one at the Red Lion. The recent high school graduate has about $1,000 in the bank and needs another $6,000 to attend a trade school that will help her realize her dream of being a flight attendant.
“I like the idea of being in Miami one day and Hawaii the next,” she said.
And Mathews, who wasn’t into the idea of talking to people but liked the idea of manual labor, walked out of the job fair with applications from Frito-Lay, Firestone, Tidewater Barge Lines and the Red Lion.
“I’ll fill them all out,” he said.