MANSFIELD -- Hundreds of job seekers funneled through the Mid-Ohio Educational Service Center on Thursday afternoon, navigating their way through busy aisles to speak with many of the 90-plus employers.
Organized by OhioMeansJobs and Richland Area Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development, the third annual job fair highlighted 92 employers with open positions and nine training organizations.
"There's a high need for employees right now, and this is an open environment for those who are looking for jobs to come in and directly engage face-to-face with an employer," said Clint Knight, the Chamber's workforce development director.
"The way applying for a job occurs right now is over the internet, which is efficient and current, but this breaks down some barriers. It lets employers see what they can't see on a piece of paper, their personality, if they'd be good at customer service," Knight said.
Neil Hamilton, president of Hamilton Insurance Group, participated in the fair to find a new account manager and agent.
"We'll have a couple of positions open up here soon, and so we're looking for some talent that will help our business grow," he said.
An hour and a half in, he hadn't found "exactly" what he was looking for yet, but still felt optimistic.
"There's been a lot of people here, and we're here through 5 p.m., so hopefully we'll find the right person who walks by," Hamilton said.
The job fair kicked off an hour earlier than usual this year to allow high school students to mingle with employers. Knight estimated approximately 180 high school students attended.
"They were very active talking with the employers and engaging, and it was exciting to see that," he said. "And yeah, there's still a lot to be seen.
"We don't know how many of those students will get jobs because of today, but I know what they did get. That was an opportunity to speak face to face with an HR manager or a business owner, or a hiring manager, the type of person they'll continue to see and interact with as they search for jobs in the future.
"It was an opportunity for them to be in an environment focused on hiring and so they know what's out there," Knight said.
Knight said there are nearly 1,350 graduating high school seniors in Richland County. This, he said, is "a huge resource for employers to fill their open positions."
He hopes to continue facilitating employer-student connections in the future, too.
"We think it's a good idea. Let the seniors get out see what there is, and it gives employer an opportunity to have fresh minds," said Jessica McNulty, director of nursing at Crestwood Care Center in Shelby.
Midway through the fair, she and Crestwood's human resource manager, Amber Beaver, had connected with a few candidates, including some seniors.
The job fair was supported by Catalyst Life Services, Richland Community Development Group, Ohio Opportunities with Disabilities, iHeart Media, Mansfield/Richland County Library, Goodwill, Regional Manufacturers Coalition, Madison Adult Career Center and Pioneer Career & Technology Center.