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More than 30 employers on hand at job fair

As Mower County’s unemployment rate continues to show an increase, area organizations keep working to help people find work and stay busy.

The United Way of Mower County and Workforce Development, Inc. teamed up to hold a Job and Volunteer Fair Wednesday afternoon, hosted by Riverland Community College.

More than 30 employers and community organizations were on hand to talk with attendees about employment and volunteer opportunities.

United Way spokesperson Chris Grev said that one of the reasons the organization partners with Workforce Development is to encourage people to keep working — if in volunteer positions — during times of unemployment.

“Volunteering is an opportunity to network, and continue to build skills… It’s also important to stay involved in your community when searching for jobs,” Grev said.

The most recent unemployment data available for Mower County dates back to March, when the rate of 6.7 percent was released by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

The Good Samaritan’s Society’s human resources director Dawn Thompson attended the fair, and said she was eager to talk to attendees about job and volunteer opportunities at the Albert Lea and Austin locations.

“In our business, we are seeing some people who are changing careers,” she said, noting she meets people who are far from retirement but their industry is not doing well.

Alexis Berg, from the Austin area, stopped by the Good Samaritan’s Society’s table to pick up a job application.

Berg, who is finishing up culinary classes in Winona, and has worked as a dietary intern and a cook’s assistant, said she is looking for her first full-time job as a dietary aid assistant.

“I’m excited about it. I’m applying for a few places out here today,” she said.

Mark Johannsen of Lansing was checking out a variety of tables at the fair, too.

“I’m looking for a career,” he said, adding that he has a background as a chemist and worked with a southern company for six years that has sent many jobs overseas.

“I’m pretty flexible at this time in my life. I’m really looking for something I can sink my teeth into,” Johannsen said. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be in a lab. It could be in sales and marketing… There are a lot of technologies and materials that could be applied to that.”

Linda Johnson, a coordinator with the Mower County Mentoring Program, was busy seeking volunteers at the fair.

“We are in need especially of men,” she explained. “We have a dozen boys waiting, and some have been waiting a year already.”

Even someone spending full-time hours on the job, or job-searching, can usually fit mentor time into their schedule, she said.

Being a mentor requires a one to four hour commitment, that can be mixed into your regular schedule, Johnson said.

She added, “If you’re going to be baking cookies with your family, invite this child over to help.”

Those interested in the mentor program can call 440-5487.

— Eric Johnson contributed to this report.