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Job Fest a chance for employers and employees to find one another
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Job seekers visit employers booths at the 2013 Job Fest Thursday evening at the Best Western Courtyard. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

A sign on one of the tables read “we’re hiring.”
That pretty much summed up the seventh-annual Job Fest at the Best Western Courtyard in Great Bend Thursday evening. Employers and potential employees from around the area flocked to the event in hopes they would find each other.
Depending on who you were, the goal was to either fill an opening or find a job.
“It’s a chance to see what’s out there,” said one job seeker as he sat at a table filling out an application. The number of businesses hiring astounded even this job-hunting veteran.
It came at a good time for women sitting with the above applicant. One has been looking for three months and the other has been out of work since last November.
It’s folks like this that Carol Kratzer wants to find. She is the director of the Ellsworth-Kanopolis Chamber of Commerce and she had information on seven needy Ellsworth County businesses.
“We have 50 jobs open in town right now,” she said. “Everybody who lives in Ellsworth pretty much already has a job.”
The fest has grown over the years. In this edition, there were 25 businesses represented.
Education and employment centers were also on hand so the job seekers could network with prospective employers and get tips for interviewing and resume writing. In addition, the KansasWorks Mobile Unit was present so the public could look for and apply for jobs online via its website.
The Educational Opportunity Center, part of the Trio Program at Barton Community College, was there to discus resources available to job seekers. Students in the Future Business Leaders of America provided interviewing tips and hospitality.
According to the Kansas Department of Labor’s March employment report (the most recent available), the statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose minimally to 5.6 percent, as compared to the February rate of 5.5 percent. In March 2012, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 5.8 percent.
In Barton County, the rate was 4.2 percent (up from 4.1 in February), In Ellsworth County it was 3.7 percent (up from 3.4) and in Pawnee County it was 4.7 percent (up from 4.5).
In Kansas, KOL reported there were 15,069 initial claims for unemployment benefits in March, down from 16,388 initial claims in February and down from 17,997 last year. There were 128,261 continued claims in March, down from 137,477 the previous month and down from 185,502 in March 2012. These numbers include all available programs.
Fest orgnizers said the idea for the Job Fest was born in 2007 as a way to bring job seekers and employers together. They wanted a local event with a venue that would allow for easy access.
The first fests took place outdoors at the Barton County Courthouse Square. But, employers wanted a more formal setting, and May weather is very unpredictable. 
Among the exhibiting employers were: Becker Tire and  Treading, Benefit Management Inc., Blizzard Energy, Central Power Systems, CPI Qualified Plan Consultants, Dillon’s stores, Ellsworth-Kanopolis Area Chamber of Commerce, First Kansas Bank, Fuller Industries LLC, Great Plains Manufacturing, Groendyke Transport, Kansas State University, Larned Area Chamber of Commerce (multiple employers represented), Larned Correctional Mental Health Facility, Larned Juvenile Correctional Facility, Larned State Hospital, Maurices, Rosewood Services, Saint Francis Community Services, St. Rose Ambulatory and Surgery Center, Sunflower Diversified Services, T&C Manufacturing and Operating, Verizon Wireless, Vintage Place of Russell and Waddell & Reed.
Sponsors included the City of Great Bend, Barton County, City of Larned, Pawnee County, City of Ellsworth, Ellsworth County, CPI Qualified Plan Consultants, Best Western Angus Inn, Great Bend Tribune, KansasWorks, Barton Community College and the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce.