LIMA — The return of Makerfest — hailed as the region’s largest job fair — highlights the effort among business and community leaders to sell the Lima region to students as a good place to build a career.
The two-day skilled trades competition and job fair is attended by representatives from some of the region’s top employers intent on recruiting high school seniors into the skilled trades and exposing Lima’s youth to job opportunities they may not realize exist here.
“A lot of times they go away to college and they begin to think that they don’t have opportunities here, that they have (to go to) other places,” said Kurt Neeper, senior vice president of Superior Financial Services, which has participated in Makerfest for going on five years. “Not knowing the opportunities that exist here does play a role in folks not coming back.”
Aaron Mattix, human resources director for the Bob Evans Farms supply chain, likes to use the career fair portion to introduce students to new kinds of manufacturing.
“People hear about automotive,” Mattix said, “but it’s always good for us to talk with people, especially those entering the workforce, about food manufacturing so they know there’s different options out there.”
Organizers are anticipating record attendance: 1,400 students from more than 30 schools have registered thus far, according to Greater Lima Region Inc. President and CEO Doug Olsson.
Olsson believes the growing visibility and popularity of Makerfest, which will be attended by Lt. Governor Jon Husted and state Superintendent Paolo DeMaria as well as companies from the Fort Wayne and Columbus regions, is driven primarily by changing workforce needs and hiring challenges.
“In a tight job market like we have, it’s hard for employers to find qualified applicants … the environment is necessary to match up job providers and job seekers,” said Olsson.
The first day of the event is only open to students. Students will demonstrate their skills through a variety of STEM and skilled trades competitions attended by around 100 companies, many of which are hiring, and attend breakout sessions on topics like robotics and engineering.
Students will even have the opportunity to learn about the M1 Abrams Tank manufactured in Lima during a presentation from General Dynamics.
But Saturday’s job fair, which is expected to draw 500 people, is open to the public.
The job fair will showcase the health care, manufacturing, skilled trades and service industries, with representatives from Mercy Health, Lima Memorial, Grob, Procter & Gamble, Whirlpool, Nutrien and others expected.
Reach Mackenzi Klemann at 567-242-0456.