Job search

The billboard along Interstate 80 encouraging Fernley residents to stop commuting to Reno and consider jobs closer to home.

The steady increase in help-wanted advertising in Ahora, a Spanish-language newspaper.

The flyers that advertise job fairs for positions ranging from customer-service representatives to medical professionals.

They're all signs that employers are learning to cast a wider net for applicants as the unemployment rate in northern Nevada counties continues to stay well below 5 percent.

In Washoe County, the 4.7 percent unemployment rate during January translates into 10,800 people looking for work and employers are doing their best to catch the eye of those 10,800.

Take a look, for instance, at West Corp.

The company decided to add about 200 customer-service positions to the 500 at its Reno call center, and it's about halfway toward reaching its goal after weeks of effort.

"It's a tight market," acknowledges Carol Padon, vice president of investor relations for the Omaha-based company."But we've made some gains on it."

The company's basic strategy: Emphasize a compensation package that can range as high as $10.50 an hour with incentives and emphasize benefits that include tuition reimbursement, health insurance and a 401(k) plan.

But the challenge, Padon says, is getting the word about the pay and benefits package onto the street where it will reach potential applicants.

A Sunday afternoon job fair including tours a couple of weeks ago helped generate some buzz.

Employers in Fernley, meanwhile, are going big and direct with a billboard that targets residents driving to jobs in Reno each morning.

"Work where you live Jobs in Fernley!" is the message on the billboard sponsored by major Fernley employers Fortifiber Corp., Amazon.

Com, Johns Mansville, Quebecor World, MSC Industrial Supply and Trex.

"Especially with gas prices, it's helped," says Rich Olsen, human relations manager at Quebecor World.

Northern Nevada Medical Center, one of numerous organizations planning to participate in a Health Care Expo at the University of Phoenix this week, looks for every chance to meet with potential new employees.

"A lot of it is word of mouth," says Patty Downs, director of human resources at the hospital in Sparks."It just happens."

And that means, she says, that successful recruitment strategies focus on current employees making sure they're happy, making sure they're willing to refer friends.

Northern Nevada Medical Center jumpstarts that process, however,with carefully targeted advertising.

It might, for instance, advertise for medical professionals in cities where other hospitals have announced layoffs.

The shotgun approach Internet job sites, newspaper classifieds continues to generate applicants for non-professional positions, Downs says.

Other employers seek to increase their visibility by conducting employment fairs at Nevada JobConnect locations.

That way, their message is seen by walk-in traffic at the employment offices as well as those who are drawn by the company's advertising, says Jim Dunnavant, who manages the JobConnect center in Sparks.

In the past, that office hosted an employer job fair every six weeks or so.

These days, it's likely to host two or three every week.

Wells Fargo,meanwhile, finds that good employees can come from anywhere a referral from a current employee or customer, a drop-in visit at a job fair and seeks to keep its name in front of potential applicants year in and year out, says Chad Osorno, a senior vice president with the company in Reno.

It conducts open houses for potential applicants at its Reno-area headquarters.

It spreads the word with posters at its branch locations.

It participates in job fairs.

The consistent work is paying off.

"We're continuing to see that some outstandingly qualified individuals are applying," Osorno says.

Tina Grefrath, who manages the JobConnect office in Reno Town Mall, says employers who widen their searches through involvement with new organizations, for instance are more likely to be successful in their search for workers.

That's especially true, she says, as spring arrives and the labor market begins its seasonal tightening.

One labor pool that's getting increased attention is the region's Hispanic population, and Steve Sepulveda says Ahora, a Spanishlanguage paper, is seeing a steady increase in employment-related advertising.

"The labor force is there, and employers know they'll work," says Sepulveda, the paper's co-publisher.

Tom Fitzgerald, chief executive officer of Nevadaworks, says his workforce development agency has emphasized to employers that they need to look anew at workers they may have rejected in the past.

The agency has found success, for instance,with seminars that show managers from the Baby Boom generation how to recruit and retain younger workers with different values systems.

"Even though the labor pool is tight, it doesn't mean there aren't people available," Fitzgerald says.


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