Teens flock to job fair in search of summer employment

March 7, 2013
photo - Young people line up for a youth job fair put on by the Pikes Peak Workforce Center on Thursday, March 7, 2013, at the DoubleTree Hotel. Photo by MARK REIS, THE GAZETTE
Young people line up for a youth job fair put on by the Pikes Peak Workforce Center on Thursday, March 7, 2013, at the DoubleTree Hotel. Photo by MARK REIS, THE GAZETTE 

The group of seven teenagers surrounded the Five Guys Burgers and Fries employment opportunity table Thursday, filling out applications, handing over resumes and listening intently to the owner’s jobs descriptions.

“We don’t advertise,” said Jeff Parker, owner of the local Five Guys franchise. “You guys are my marketing department. You sell burgers with your award-winning smiles and cooking.”

Parker was one of 45 employers who attended the Governor’s Summer Job Hunt Youth Fair on Thursday at the DoubleTree Hotel in Colorado Springs.

More than 900 youths ages 16 to 21 had registered for the fair by 7:30 a.m. Thursday, said Dana Barton, business relations and employment development director for the Pikes Peak Workforce Center, which sponsored the event. More than 1,200 were expected to attend by day’s end.

Parker has taken part in the job fair since he opened his first Five Guys on North Academy Boulevard in 2008. He said participating in the fair saves him hundreds of work hours that would otherwise be lost to one-on-one job interviews. He said the fair is a more efficient way to interview candidates because he can instantly look prospective employees in the eye and gauge their people skills, enthusiasm and many times their work ethic. Parker said he has hired between eight and 10 people at each fair during the past six years.

“If you are a business owner and you are not attending this,” he said, “you are crazy.”

Megan Fier, 18, was one of those who gathered at the Five Guys booth looking for employment. A Pine Creek High School senior, Fier has been accepted to the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, where she wants to study special education. On Thursday, she was looking for a job that would improve her people skills.

“I think that would increase my chances of getting a job later,” she said.

Barton said helping youth find their first or second job is important to their futures and often times the future of their immediate families.

“A lot of parents are out of work in today’s economy,” she said, “and a lot of these kids will give back part of their earnings to help their families.”

Barton remembered her first job as a barista at a coffee shop in Kentucky. She worked the job during vacations and summer breaks while in college. That job taught her self-confidence, responsibility, money management, how to run a small business and other skills that today’s youth need to become tomorrow’s business owners and community leaders.

Fier said her self-confidence increased just by attending Thursday’s job fair. Before sending job seekers to meet employers, job counselors gave the young people tips on how to speak with employers, how to present themselves and other advice.

“It has made me less afraid to come in here and talk to all these (business) owners,” Fier said.
Contact Ned Hunter: 636-0275.

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