Job fair offers area unemployed and hiring businesses opportunities as COVID-19 winds down

Jordan Meier
Morning Sun
Gary Johnson discussing job opportunities with a City of Pittsburg employee at the job fair on Wednesday.

PITTSBURG, Kan. — In 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic caused millions of Americans to lose their jobs, and Pittsburg was not immune.  

Dozens of southeast Kansas companies were forced to downsize their staff, or close their doors completely, leaving potentially hundreds without jobs and without many prospects.  

However, as COVID-19 numbers in the area continue to fall and vaccinations have reached the majority of area citizens, the economy has begun to pick back up again, with the current unemployment rate at 3.7 percent as of March 2021, only .4 percent higher than where the community was in March of 2020, according to the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce.  

However, people are still struggling to find work and fill open positions, so the City of Pittsburg and the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce decided to jumpstart many people’s job search—and many companies’ hiring process—with a good old-fashioned job fair.  

“Even before we opened up, we had some people that were waiting,” Chamber President Blake Benson said. “I’m very happy with the turnout, it's been very steady.”  

On Wednesday over a dozen hiring companies, including the City of Pittsburg, set up camp in the basement of Memorial Auditorium hoping to attract potential employees.  

According to Benson, there are nearly 300 open positions in the area currently.  From an opening as a pharmacy clerk at Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas to searching for a tire tech at O’Bryan Automotive Repair, positions are available in dozens of different fields.  

“I think there’s a good amount of employers here with opportunities,” Benson said, “matched up with people that are looking for good opportunities.” 

Gary Johnson of Pittsburg was one of the job fair attendees looking for a job. After losing his position at Jake’s Fireworks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Johnson hopes to find a job soon, in particular with the City of Pittsburg. 

“I’m hoping to work for the City as a machinery operator,” Johnson said. “It went well, I got a lot done today.” 

Bobbi Switlick, another attendee at the fair, was searching for a job preemptively.  

“I actually have a job until September, so I’m just being proactive,” Switlick said. “I lost my job though as a result of NPC [International] merging with Flynn [Restaurant Group].”  

Switlick, who is looking for a job in accounting or human resources, was hopeful that the job fair could help her, but also added that the whole process of job searching is a lot.  

“It’s just very stressful,” she said.  

The job fair came on the heels of an economic discussion at Tuesday night’s Pittsburg City Commission meeting. Members of the commission as well as Benson himself expressed concerns about being able to fill all the needed jobs currently available in Pittsburg and throughout the county with the unemployment rate currently where it is.  

“That 3.7 percent is obviously great, it means your economy is healthy,” Benson said, “but it also means it can be difficult for your businesses and your employers to find new employees.”  

Jordan Meier is a staff writer for the Morning Sun. She can be reached at jmeier@morningsun.net.