Registration urged now for the Southwest Florida Virtual Job Fair
Next month the Southwest Florida Virtual Job Fair will take place, giving both employers and job seekers an opportunity to fill a need in the community.
The event will be held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 13.
To register, both employers and job seekers can visit bettertogetherus.org/swfl-vjf.
Cape Christian, which is hosting the event with Better Together, Founding Pastor Dennis Gingerich said the Virtual Job Fair all will be done through Zoom, so all job seekers need is either a phone or computer to participate.
Gingerich said Better Together is the brains behind the Virtual Job Fair.
“We have been partnering with them on other things for many years,” he said.
The event also includes partners FOX4 and Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, which Gingerich said is an organization that helps restore the rights to vote and give individuals a second chance in terms of finding employment with a criminal past.
“The cool thing about this is not just the fact that it is a job fair connecting employers with potential employees, but there is free one-on-one job coaching and workshops that are going to be done in the days leading up to it,” he said. “This will be an opportunity for them to feel confident.”
The job coaches will meet with the job seekers during a one-on-one phone call, which consists of 30 minutes of building confidence, while learning about skills and how to pitch themselves.
Gingerich said they already have 13 companies registered with such employers as Lee Health seeking clinical and nonclinical employees, Gulf Coast Village, Storm Smart, Waste Pro and Beatty Development. As of Tuesday there were 53 job seekers registered.
“Our goal is to hit 24,” employers, he said, which is as far as they can go with the Zoom room capacity. “We have everything from restaurant to construction.”
Gingerich said they expect the last week before the Virtual Job Fair to garner the greatest registration for job seekers. He said as the end of July looms overhead, individuals will start losing their federal funding and they will feel more inclined to look for a job and want a job.
Cape Christian wanted to host the Virtual Job Fair because they are here to serve the community. Gingerich, who is the founding pastor of the church, just celebrated 33 years of opening the doors of Cape Christian.
“We are here to serve the community and not to serve ourselves. We are here to leave the community better than when we found it,” Gingerich said. “The other component is we are always willing to partner with anybody that is already doing something to accomplish that goal. We have been a partner with Better Together for years and are excited that FOX4 and Florida Rights Restoration Coalition jumped in on it.”
He said FOX4 is partnering with them by having their employees as volunteers for job coaching.
“They are actually participating in making it happen, which I think is unique. They are doing more than that, they are actually coming to the planning meetings and being involved in the actual days leading up to it,” Gingerich said.
He said often times when people come to them asking for help financially it is typically job related, especially during the uncertain times of the COVID-19 pandemic. Gingerich said they are trying to get to the core of helping people long term, providing a hand-up to get them back on their feet.
Better Together CEO Megan Rose said they began in 2015 with two programs. The first was the Better Families program, which is a private alternative to foster care. Host families, after a background check, open their homes for a short term while the family deals with such issues a job loss, mental health or addiction. The host family helps in keeping the family together and out of foster care.
The family voluntarily places the child or children in the Better Families program, or a volunteer helps mentor the family during their crisis.
“A volunteer can mentor a family that might be isolated, struggling and doesn’t have a strong support system,” Rose said, adding that they “build a community around the family.”
It was soon realized that the root cause of a family crisis revolved around finances.
“If someone loses a job, a small problem becomes large problems,” she said. “We believe churches are uniquely positioned to help families find work in their neighborhood and remind people of dignity and hope.”
Rose said the Southwest Florida Virtual Job Fair is a really unique opportunity for the church to help in providing economic opportunities for employment, as well as provide hope for their neighbors that are struggling while encouraging no shame. She said a lot of job seekers that are out of work for a long time lose hope when they are rejected over and over again.
“It eats away at people and impacts their self esteem,” Rose said. “They lose that hope and the church can help encourage them and connect them to employment.”
Rose said they partner with churches nationally to offer the job fairs, which are typically in person. She said the Better Jobs program began in 2016 with job fairs.
“We professionally support the church, but the church is recruiting, finding employers,” she said.
Better Together recently held its first-ever virtual job fair and it was incredibly successful, which was exciting for the organization.
“There is going to be a significant need for employment in this area that were impacted by COVID-19. It’s exciting that we have this opportunity to offer another job fair with dozens of employers,” Rose said. “We at Better Together are excited about being able to partner with Cape Christian and partner with these volunteers to economically empower the community and offer true hospitality and celebrate human dignity. Despite all the negative things in the world, it’s so encouraging to see people come together to really help neighbors and do it in an easy way.”
A perk of holding Southwest Florida Virtual Job Fair is there are no barriers, she said.
“Anyone, as long as they have a phone or computer, can have access to hiring managers. They don’t have to get dressed up and get in the car and drive somewhere. They just have to get dressed and look at the schedule and participate in a lot of virtual opportunity with hiring managers,” Rose said.
She said their job fairs, whether in person, or virtual, revolves around a culture of celebration and acceptance, as well as second chances regardless of an individual’s challenges — a felony, or gaps on their resume.
“You can come and participate and have equal opportunity,” Rose said, adding that there are volunteers available to coach job seekers, give them guidance and remind them of their potential.
At an in-person job fair there is an opportunity bell that job seekers have the opportunity to ring when they get an interview and are hired on the spot. That same aspect will be incorporated in the virtual setting within the break out rooms.
“There is dignity in work. Work is important,” Rose said, adding that it provides a wholeness for the family. “I’m excited that Cape Christian plays a significant part in adding hope and connecting to employment opportunities to get rid of shame.”