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story.lead_photo.caption Donnie Holder III, right, visits with Brian Vincent of Blue Sky during Friday's job and career fair at Page Library on the campus of Lincoln University. Students and the public could attend the opportunity which saw several area businesses ranging from banking to hospital to fire department and much more in one location for job seekers convenience. Photo by Julie Smith / News Tribune.

Friday's joint-effort career expo at Lincoln University was a win-win, organizers said.

Lincoln University partnered with the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce to host a career expo with 42 employers and dozens of student and community member attendees.

Darius Watson, LU's interim dean of admissions and enrollment, said the career expo, which was part of LU's Week of Welcome for new students, was a success.

Elizabeth Jordan, LU's director of career services, said roughly 75 students and at least 10 community members had signed in with more than an hour and a half left before the scheduled end time.

Throughout the event, Jordan and Watson routinely checked on recruiters and visited with expo attendees.

"As students have been leaving, we've been asking if they were able to network and make some connections, and they all say it's gone really well," Jordan said.

Watson said Page Library was a good location for the expo as it provides adequate space for recruiters and the opportunity for new students to visit one of the focal points on campus.

He said he couldn't be happier working with the Chamber of Commerce on the career expo.

Watson said the chamber's ability to garner support and participation among local business owners made the event successful.

Gary Plummer, president and CEO of the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce, said the response from employers looking to recruit at the expo was tremendous.

Within days, Plummer said all available spaces for recruiters were filled.

The timing of the career expo was perfect, Plummer said, because finding employees has been the top priority of local businesses.

Plummer said the state and federal increase in unemployment benefits at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic might have disincentivized employees to return to entry level jobs, leading to a higher demand for workers in that sector.

He said more employees are also looking for remote work options.

"All of our members want to do all that they can to support Lincoln University and being involved with an event like this is a win-win for the university and for them," Plummer said.

Ashley Koerber, a talent acquisition specialist at SSM Health recruiting for St. Mary Hospital, said the career expo was beneficial as she talked to a handful of nursing students interested in Certified Nursing Assistant positions at the hospital.

Koerber said SSM Health usually hires several nursing graduates from Lincoln University every semester.

She said the hospital has employment needs in pretty much every area, which has been compounded by a higher hospital census amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The pandemic has definitely caused a greater need for staff," she said.

The expo had a steady flow of good candidates, Koerber said, which could provide the extra help the hospital is searching for.

In addition to events like the career expo, Koerber said she visits the LU campus at least once every semester to talk to freshmen and senior nursing students about opportunities at the hospital, like becoming a clinical partner or graduate nurse.

Terry Donner, director of human resources at Scholastic, had a similar experience with a steady stream of students and community members visiting at the expo.

Scholastic offers Lincoln University students part-time positions in the afternoon to work around their class schedules, Donner said. The hours are also limited to encourage a focus on academics.

Donner said the company usually recruits around 50 students each year and has been doing so for 15-20 years.

The company recently introduced a transportation program to resolve any issues students might have getting from campus to work and back.

"It works out great, it's a great partnership, and it's great to be able to welcome the students back," Donner said.

In addition to Friday's expo, Donner said the company will return to campus and set up outside the campus cafe as it usually does to recruit more students looking for work.

John Schaefferkoetter, development director of the Boys and Girls Club of Jefferson City, said the after school program is looking to fill 50 youth development professional positions before the start of the fall term.

Schaefferkoetter said he was hoping to find at least 20 LU students to sign up at the career expo. He had 13 ready for an interview by the expo's halfway mark.

"We're relying on Lincoln students to get us through the school year," Schaefferkoetter said. "I need a Monday through Friday 2:30-7 p.m., so my first question is, 'What's your class schedule?' and if it's a conflict, their class schedule is a priority. But at least I've got 13 that don't have a conflict."

Schaefferkoetter said LU students make up about 75 percent of the Boys & Girls Club of Jefferson City staff, so it was beneficial to have a career expo available to recruit new staff.

"We love our relationship with LU," Schaefferkoetter said. "We've had a strong relationship, and it continues to grow."

Watson said the event wouldn't have been successful without the outpouring of mutual support from the Jefferson City and Lincoln University communities.

Roughly 20 percent of the expo attendees were community members, which Watson said shows the university and community are working together.

"If we can utilize the commonalities — OK they need workers, we have people that need jobs — then those are the basic commonalities we can start to connect the community through," Watson said. "And we're literally seeing it right now."

Watson said the university also has new connections with area businesses to potentially work out internship programs with.

Watson said he intends on following up with students, the Chamber of Commerce and the businesses that were in attendance in an effort to make improvements. He said he has already started thinking about future career expos, as early as next spring semester, and how to make them bigger with more marketing and a wider net.

The Chamber of Commerce would be happy to participate in future career expos in conjunction with Lincoln University, Plummer said.

"These are all people from our own community trying to make a difference in our own community," Watson said. "I don't know what else you could ask for as a community. This is as good as it gets in my book."

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