Career fair brings prospective workers to Windsor with 300 skilled jobs

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Windsor Star/Jay Rankin

With the city’s unemployment rate one of the country’s highest at nine per cent, how do you stop people from leaving Windsor and going to places like Alberta?

And how do you bring back those that have already left? The Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation thinks offering full-time skilled trades jobs is the answer.

Colten Baxter, 25, grew up in Windsor, but has had trouble staying in Windsor. In summer 2012 he moved to Fort McMurray, Alta. “I went up there with that whole premise for more money,” Baxter said.

He then moved back to Windsor near the end of the fall that year, but was unable to find a job. The following year he moved to Toronto — then back again to Windsor. Now he’s a tool and die apprentice, but he’s looking for other opportunities. Saturday afternoon he was walking around a technical and skilled trades career fair at Caesars Windsor.

“We’ve been talking about the skilled trades for a long time,” said Sandra Pupatello, CEO of the Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation. “We have to stop talking. We need to start doing these kinds of activities.”

The show featured 29 businesses offering more than 300 full-time skilled jobs. Pupatello, a former Ontario minister of economic development and trade, said the development corporation has been advertising the fair since October, using clever ads headed with lines such as, “Tired of living with five guys? Looking for a better life?”

Though these ads are targeted at people in their 30s, looking to get a job they can settle down with, she said the humour would also help attract people who had left the region to these full-time skilled jobs being offered in Windsor.

People travelled not just from around the area, but from outside the province for the job fair. And the businesses were also taking applications online, allowing those who couldn’t physically be in Windsor to submit their resumes.

A promise of work isn’t the only thing that brings people to a city. Aside from the students the University of Windsor attracts from around the country for schooling, it also scoops 16 per cent — or about 2,500 — of its student population from around the world.  But once they graduate, how do you keep them here?

Mohammad Pavel, 26, and his wife, Farzana, moved to Windsor from Bangladesh two years ago to study in the university’s masters electrical engineering program. They graduated this fall and even though they have work permits, both have been struggling to find jobs. They were both scouting around the career fair Saturday.

“I’m still waiting to get a job because I like it here,” Pavel said. “Most of my friends have already left for Alberta and other places.”

Mike Ouellette, a skilled trades training co-ordinator from Valiant, thinks it’s important to bring people back to Windsor. “We need to get the skills back here,” he said. “We’re finding a lot of work that was shipped offshore is slowly coming back now.”

Valiant, a manufacturing company that started 1959 in Windsor and has expanded to 11 countries, was hiring robotics technicians, industrial electricians, pipefitters, mechanical designers and other jobs at the fair.

Pupatello said that in the new year the development corporation plans to bring the local job fair out west to attract more people from out of province to Windsor.