DEVENS -- State Rep. Sheila Harrington is partnering with the Nashoba Valley Chamber of Commerce to address the issue of local unemployment. Together, Harrington and the NVCC are hosting a multi-industry job fair this month. The Nashoba Valley Job Fair will be the first of its kind in this area.
"You see this kind of thing more in a big city, not out here in Devens and the Nashoba Valley area," said Harrington.
The fair will be held on Jan. 25 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Devens Common Center, and will host a range of companies, from the financial service industry to health care. Job openings at various levels will be featured; everyone from recent college graduates to the long-term unemployed to high-level executives looking to explore the waters are encouraged to attend.
"It's going to run the gamut," said Harrington. "We wanted to tap into a broad base of jobs."
There is no charge either for attendees or for companies looking to set up a table. Harrington is looking for corporate sponsors for the event. Workers Credit Union and Massachusetts One-Stop Career Centers have taken on the role, but Harrington is hoping more will step forward.
The day won't consist of a particular structure, said Melissa Fetterhoff, president and CEO of the NVCC. Attendees will be welcome to peruse the various tables of employers at their own discretion. Coffee and refreshments will also be available. Attendees are encouraged to bring resumes, cover letters and letters of recommendation if they have them available.
For now, said Harrington, there are 25 companies currently enlisted to host tables, but she is hoping the number will nearly double by the time the fair rolls around. Participating companies currently spread from the Leominster area out to Lexington.
"To as much of an extent as possible, we want to feature local companies that would hire local people," said Harrington.
Originally, the net had been cast largely over the Nashoba Valley area, said Harrington. But to extend the reach, she reached out to Sen. Eileen Donghue, Sen. Jamie Eldridge, Rep. Jim Arciero and Rep. Jen Benson in order to get their input on incorporating their districts into the fair as well.
"We all want to work for what's best for the people, best for all the districts," said Harrington.
She and the NVCC are also being assisted by the Career Center of Lowell, the North Central Career Centers and Shriver Job Corps in getting companies to sign up.
"Their people have extended our net significantly further," said Harrington.
Harrington came up with the idea for the fair last year as a way to address local unemployment. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Middlesex County has a lower unemployment rate than the overall commonwealth, at 5.2 percent versus 6.5 percent. Still, there is a resounding call for employment.
"I was hearing people that have been out of work, people who have been out of work for a long time," said Harrington. "There was a sense of hopelessness there of 'How do I find jobs? Where are they?' I wanted to do something proactive for the area."
She approached Fetterhoff with the idea in the late spring.
"I thought it was a fantastic idea. I know there are definitely people in the area looking for jobs," said Fetterhoff. "There's a misperception, I think, that there aren't any jobs available in the area, but there are."
The NVCC has a job posting page on their website; last year, said Fetterhoff, the page received over 15,000 hits, all of them people looking for jobs.
"I know there are companies that don't take advantage of the posting on our website, but I know there are definitely jobs out there," said Fetterhoff. "I think this is a great opportunity to connect those two people, if you will."
When Harrington approached the senators and other representatives, everyone was onboard and the work began. The group chose the date and time to best accommodate people with a variety of work shifts and lunch breaks.
Registration both for job seekers and for companies is not required, but highly encouraged. Registration is available online at nashobavalleyjobfair.com. Up-to-date company registrations are available for perusal online.
"It'll give us an idea of what to expect," said Harrington.
Still, even last-minute participants are welcome.
"We're prepared to set up more tables if we have to," said Harrington. "We want to get as many people as we can."
Still, interested companies should get a hold of Harrington as soon as possible lest they run out of space prior to the event.
If the fair is a success, it's something that Fetterhoff would like to see turn into an annual event.
"I hope there are some great connections that are made," said Fetterhoff. "I'm hoping for success, that people in our region who are unemployed can find something that can work for them."