Alice Van Blokland, director of employment services for Beacon Community Services, says would-be job seekers should be prepared to interview during Thursday’s virtual job fair running from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Alice Van Blokland, director of employment services for Beacon Community Services, says would-be job seekers should be prepared to interview during Thursday’s virtual job fair running from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

WorkBC Sidney zooms up virtual job fair

Fair scheduled from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday features four local employers

A virtual job fair scheduled for Thursday promises to connect job seekers with Saanich Peninsula employers.

WorkBC Employment Services and the Inter-Cultural Association (ICA) of Greater Victoria are presenting the Saanich Peninsula Virtual Job Fair running online from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Interested parties can contact WorkBC Sidney to sign up for the virtual fair.

Alice Van Blokland, director of employment services for Beacon Community Services that holds the WorkBC contract, said the fair has to be online, because of measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s more appropriate to do it this way, because, if we have more than 50 people, that is not permitted,” she said.

Job seekers can access the fair through Zoom with the numbers of would be employers limited to four: Schneider Electric, Portofino European Bakery, Benson Cabinetry and Millwork, and Epicure.

Van Blokland said this limited number should help. “We are starting small just for time,” she said. “You can’t have it as a free-for-all, where people just go around obviously. We’ll see how that plays out and if we can get a substantial number of job seekers, we can always look at doing another one and making it a full day.”

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Van Blokland acknowledges a virtual job fair cannot fully replicate the more intangible elements of connecting would-be employers with job seekers. But Zoom’s breakout room element allows job seekers to speak to specific employers and the interactions are still live. “These are not canned presentations, so they can still have an exchange with people,” she said. “People will still have opportunity to ask questions and dialogue with each of the employers.”

But if Thursday’s job fair is virtual, certain analog rules continue to apply to would-be job seekers.

Van Blokland said would-be job seekers should be prepared to share their resumes and dress for interviews. “It’s not just a presentation,” she said. “If an employers is very interested in you, you should be apply to provide your resume right away and be prepared to answer some interview questions. All of the clients that we see through WorkBC, we prep them in that way.”

Van Blokland said Beacon Community Services has studied what others have done. “We heard about one other agency [that has done a virtual job fair] and the most important part was that it would be well-organized, so people have a clear understanding of what is happening then. If it clearly laid out, they can choose which sessions they want to attend, and then having as dynamic as possible.”

Organization and accessibility is especially key when it comes to helping people who might not be as computer savvy, as others, she added.

RELATED: Greater Victoria records highest unemployment in post-war history with 11 per cent

Thursday’s job fair happening against the backdrop of one, if not the worst economic decline in modern history. The most recent figures from August peg the unemployment rate for the Victoria Census Metropolitan Area at 10.3 per cent, down from 11.3 percent in July. By way of context, Victoria’s CMA recorded an unemployment rate of 3.4 per cent in February, with the region consistently among the regions with the lowest unemployment rates anywhere in Canada.

“What I find interesting is that we are not seeing as many job candidates, or as many people looking for work, as I would expect, and I guess I can only attribute that to people receiving CERB or EI.”

Others, she added, may also curtail their job search because they have questions about health safety measures. “Is the work I’m going to be applying to safe? Are they following protocols? Will I be required to wear a mask? Are there hand hygiene practices?’”

Van Blokland said, in looking at her own organization, it has been quite fortunate in receiving considerable interest, some from places not necessarily expected. “We are having candidates apply from out of province, and even out of country, which is really unusual for us.”

For more information and sign up for the Sept. 24 event, call 250-656-0134 or email centre-sidney@workbc.ca.


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wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com