By Jack Kazmierski
Special to the Toronto Sun
If you didn't know any better you'd think the Metro Toronto Convention Centre was hosting tryouts for Canadian Idol this past April 14th and 15th. The halls were packed with well-attired career-minded individuals, and long lineups stretched through corridor after corridor as job seekers lined up to enter The National Job Fair and Training Expo.
Now in its third year, and sponsored in part by The Toronto Sun, the expo boasts more than 104 exhibitors and thousands of job prospects. "We know for sure that at least 3,000 jobs are being offered," says Maud Allard, co-president, The National Job Fair and Training Expo. "But likely there are more jobs than that available here today."
Robert (who didn't want his last name used) already has a job in sales and managed to take a day off work to come to the fair. He met with a number of potential employers and has a good feeling that he'll be called in for a second interview. "I've got a lot to offer and I think I made a good first impression," he says. "The odds are definitely in my favour with so many jobs on the table today."
Every year, major corporations set up booths at The National Job Fair and Training Expo, including well-known names like Radio Shack, Smart Set, Indigo Books & Music, Jetsgo, Town Shoes, The Shoe Company, Wal-Mart Canada, and many more. Even the Ontario Provincial Police as well as Toronto Fire Services and Toronto Police Services take advantage of the fair to look for recruits.
Edita Kachmarska recently moved to the GTA from Edmonton and needs a job fast. She's looking for a career in retail. "It makes sense to spend the day here, even though you have to wait a while to speak with someone from a company," she reasons, patiently waiting in line with a stack of resumes in hand. "But where else can you shake the hands of so many potential employers in such a short period of time?"
The fair is organized into three sections, or pavilions. The Employment Pavilion is the area where job seekers can connect with employers, as well as employment agencies. This is the region of the job fair where lineups are the longest as everyone waits patiently for an audience with company representatives and HR personnel.
The Training Pavilion hosts a variety of schools, many of which also offer job placement services. One of the more unique schools attending the fair is Max the Mutt Animation Inc. This small Toronto-based art school offers a three-year diploma program with a fourth advanced year as an option.
Former graduates have landed jobs working on Disney projects, designing video games and websites, as well as working in other industries where animation comes into play. "Most of our graduates are happily employed," boasts the director of the school, Maxine Schacker.
'Here to help'
If you don't find the training you need or the job you're looking for, the Employment Services Pavilion can put you in contact with organizations that might be able to help. "Maybe you need to prepare a better resume, or maybe you need counselling or advice," reasons Allard. "These people are here to help."
Oganizers say close to 20,000 attended the two-day fair. "I'm surprised to see so many people here," says Anita Bellridge, one of the many job seekers in attendance. "I've never seen a job fair this alive and full of people. It's a bit overwhelming, but well worth the time. I've spoken with a number of employers and feel confident that I'll be working for one of them in the next little while."
Although many people come prepared with a resume and a cover letter in hand, organizers insist that it's not a must. "The most important part of a job fair is to meet people, shake hands and talk with employers," explains Allard. "Paper is paper, but face-to-face is really what's important."
Allard, along with partner and co-president Daniel Levesque, organize The National Job Fair and Training Expo twice a year -- once in the spring and once in the fall. If you're kicking yourself for having passed up the opportunity to meet with numerous high-quality employers this time around, jot down the dates for the next job fair in your calendar, scheduled for Sept. 21 and 22, 2004. For more information visit www.thenationaljobfair.com
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