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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Young workers scope out Spokane job recruiters

Lynn Simpson, a sophomore at The Community School, eyes surveying equipment as she chats with surveyors Daniel Atha, left, Rudy Kitzan, center, and Allison Younger during a Next Gen Job Fair on Wednesday, March 1, 2017, at the Spokane Convention Center. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Josh Mollon is living every millennial’s worst nightmare.

He’s 23, a recent college graduate, and he can’t get a job in his intended career field.

“I’ve applied to about 30 different places right now,” Mollon said. “Everyone wants five years of experience.”

It’s no wonder then that he found himself at the Next Gen Job Fair in the Spokane Convention Center on Tuesday afternoon, bumping shoulders with about 48 employers looking for people like him – organizations like Starbucks, Lowe’s, the Marines and BECU.

The Spokane Area Workforce Development Council, which works to fill gaps in employment in the Spokane area, has been organizing the fair for two years as way for 16- to 24-year-olds without a four-year college degree to find entry-level employment.

But it wasn’t just the run-of-mill retail, service industry and military fields with traditionally low barriers of entry that made an appearance. There were also places specializing in in-home healthcare, law enforcement agencies and representatives recruiting land surveyors.

They all had the same message: We’re hiring.

“One thing I have personally noticed is when you walk into a high school math class and ask how many are considering a career in engineering, many students will raise their hand,” said Allison Younger, a land surveyor at David Evans and Associates in Coeur d’Alene. “When you ask them how many are considering a career in land surveying, they don’t raise their hand.”

Younger, who was representing the Land Surveyor’s Association of Washington, said companies are struggling to find licensed land surveyors in Idaho and Washington. “And if a company does find one, they’re already employed.”

She said the job pays well – about $38,000 a year for entry level – which is why she’s perplexed more people haven’t even heard of the field.

“That’s why we come to these things,” Younger said.

Michael McBride is an analyst at Spokane Area Workforce Development Council identifying trends in the workforce. He said he sees the largest demand for workers in health care, but industries like skilled labor and law enforcement also are doing some heavy recruiting.

“There are some jobs that are growing at an astronomical rate right now,” he said.

Sarah Jewett, a recruiter at Interim Healthcare, an agency that provides non-medical home care and hospice, said they’re constantly hiring to fill entry-level positions.

“I would like to be able to hire about 20 to 50 people right now,” she said, “just in Spokane.”

The Spokane Police Department was there as well, with a booth that had a steady stream of interested onlookers. Even though they recently hired nine cadets, Ken Applewhaite, a police officer manning the booth, said they’re going to be “hiring for a while.”

As for Mollon, he managed to secure an interview at the Washington State Department of Agriculture – an opportunity to use his environmental studies degree. But he’s cautious, so he looked around the convention center and heard elevator pitches from a half dozen different recruiters. He even stopped by the land surveyors’ table and talked with them for about 15 minutes.

While it was informative, he said, it appeared to be yet another prospect that won’t pan out.

“I guess even with this you need a two-year degree in the program,” he said. “So, I don’t know.”