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Penn State New Kensington job fair draws bigger crowd

| Friday, Oct. 4, 2013, 12:36 a.m.
Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
At the bottom of the photo, Allan Meighan of Apollo, left, and Christopher Sutej of Natrona Heights talk with Nancy Reynolds, an employment officer with Brayman Construction in Saxonburg, about job opportunities during the Job Fair at Penn State New Kensington in Upper Burrell on Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013.

The Alle-Kiski Job Fair at Penn State New Kensington in Upper Burrell on Thursday reflected growth for regional companies and those most desperate to join them: first-time job seekers and people older than 50.

The sixth annual job fair was the most popular in three years, with 60 employers filling the athletic center to capacity.

It drew about 500 local job-seekers — a group composed mostly of recent college graduates and the people older than 50 they are supplanting in the workforce.

Joe Schweinberg, a specialist at the fair's cohost, Pennsylvania CareerLink, said the addition of 15 employers from last year demonstrates local companies' eagerness to hire.

“Our participation always correlates with what's going on with the economy,” he said. “I think (employers) are gaining more confidence and getting more aggressive in the marketplace.”

That is true for companies like Waddell & Reed, which, according to recruiter Christopher Mickey, had 30 percent growth this fiscal year. Mickey said the financial planning service is “always hiring” and willing to consider anyone with a relevant four-year degree.

A potential candidate would be John Bozick, 22, of New Kensington. Having recently earned a bachelor's degree in business from PSNK, Bozick browsed what his alma mater's job fair had to offer on Thursday in hopes of gaining a career lead.

“I'm pretty optimistic that I'll find something,” he said. “I see this as another way to gain exposure. I'm not looking for anything specific, but I'm sure it will work out.”

Bozick's buoyancy didn't translate to many of Thursday's job-seekers, a significant portion of whom were older than 50.

Robert Klembus, 61, of New Kensington was among the hundreds of older people seeking a full-time job. The 1972 Penn State New Kensington graduate has spent the past year trying to land a graphic design job — a position he held for 39 years before being laid off late last year.

Klembus claims his previous employer replaced him with a recent college graduate for monetary reasons.

“It's something you're seeing more and more of these days,” he said. “They don't want to pay the older, more expensive guys, and they replace them with cheap inexperience.”

Klembus has sought the services of Pennsylvania CareerLink to help him land on his feet. The job service helps the unemployed get hired through workshops, consultation services and exposure to potential opportunities.

Of the 50-some people that attended a CareerLink resume workshop in preparation for the job fair, according toKlembus, almost three-fourths were 60 or older.

It is a phenomenon that has been witnessed on the employers' side, as well.

Blackburn's Human Resources Manager Lynn Castman said she has seen more older and overqualified applicants at this year's fair than in the previous five years that the medical service provider has attended.

“A lot of companies are thriving, but there's also a lot of displaced people,” she said. “We're getting interest for entry-level positions from people that are very overqualified to fulfill our needs. We've even had some former executives applying for entry-level positions.”

Other local organizations present were ATI Allegheny Ludlum, Alcoa Technical Center, Management Science Associates Inc., Oberg Industries and UPMC.

None of the recruiters said their company has felt an immediate impact of the government shutdown or the recent implementation of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, as it pertains to hiring.

Requisite degrees for positions ranged from high school diplomas to master's degrees.

According to Jim Shields, Penn State New Kensington career services coordinator, the job fair's main function was to expose the surrounding community to opportunities that otherwise would go unrecognized.

“This is a great resource for people looking for jobs or internships,” he said, “but it's also a way for us to touch base with our community and understand their needs. That's what Penn State is all about.”

Braden Ashe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reachedat (724) 226-4673.

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