Community careers: Hamilton County Youth Assistance Program offers job fair

Chuck Haberman describes his business to students at Sheridan High School’s career fair. (Submitted photos)

What started as a local job fair at Sheridan High School now benefits the entire community. Hamilton County Youth Assistance Program will host a career fair from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 6 at Ivy Tech’s Noblesville campus, 300 N. 17th St.

Jason Ells, a member of the Sheridan Youth Assistance board, said the students reacted well to the SHS fair, but the community wasn’t as involved as he’d hoped. Ells, vice president of Custom Concrete in Westfield, saw a fresh opportunity.

Corbin Ellis speaks with students at Sheridan High School’s career fair.

“The genesis of this thought is I live in both worlds. I live in the construction industry and the trades industry and I hear from partners and peers this massive need and this lack of good, skilled workers. It’s to epidemic proportions at this point. It’s a problem,” Ells said. “But on the Youth Assistance side of things, I hear of all these families who need good jobs. We are dealing with kids, and their parents can’t help them get the simple things we take for granted.”

The Sheridan Youth Assistance Program board met with Scott Jordan of the Westfield Youth Assistance Program, and the idea for a community career fair was born. The goal is to connect families with trade jobs throughout the county.

“We thought, ‘Let’s involve all of Hamilton County Youth Assistance Programs and make (the career fair) more centralized and make it more of a Hamilton County thing instead of just a Sheridan thing,’” Ells said. “That’s what spurred this need to have this (hiring) event.”

The Youth Assistance Program began in 2009, when Westfield Mayor Andy Cook saw a need for early intervention for local youth to keep them out of the juvenile justice system. Since then, it has spread across the state.

From left, Lisa Samuels, Scott Jordan and Jason Ells are organizing a career fair for Hamilton County. (Photo by Anna Skinner)

“When the Youth Assistance Program began it was only in our community, but we knew that the program could benefit the entire state,” Cook stated in an email to Current. “It has been a dream of mine to be able to bring this program to other school districts and communities. It is such a pleasure to watch YAP flourish in our neighboring counties and to be able to serve those children who are most in need so that they can have the tools they need to succeed.”

Ells said the goal of the event is to emphasize careers that don’t require a traditional college degree.

“These four-year degrees aren’t the only path to success. There’s another path, and it’s in these trades,” Ells said. “It requires hard work, dedication and planning and, more importantly, an awareness that these jobs exist.”

The career fair will not only benefit adults needing a job, but also aid the kids the Youth Assistance Program was created to help in the first place.

“From my point of view, youth assistance is a prevention program. So, for long-term prevention, if we can prevent families coming to us in need because they can’t pay rent or utilities, we are preventing what is happening,” SYAP early intervention advocate Lisa Samuels said.

Nearly 50 businesses will take part in the fair. All must offer a minimum annual salary of $27,000. Small, large and local corporate businesses will be represented. Ells said the companies will look for experienced and non-experienced workers. Most offer on-the-job training.

“Don’t let not having a skill keep you from coming to the career fair,” Ells said.

Free resume and application-building services also will be offered. Businesses will have space to speak with applicants at the career fair if they choose to go forward with an interview. Businesses interested in setting up a display must register by March 2.

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How the low unemployment rate affects the county

Although Hamilton County’s unemployment rate is a only 1.8 percent, the low percentage can negatively affect local businesses seeking employees.

Sheridan Youth Assistance Program board member and local businessman Jason Ells said although  low unemployment, it can also hurt businesses. The upcoming Career Hiring Fair helps the unemployed and underemployed but also adds something of value to local businesses.

“It’s bad on the other side of things because businesses simply cannot grow their business and keep up with the market because they don’t have the human capital to get the work done,” he said. “There’s an economic development component to this. We want to help people, but this would resonate to business owners and people that have invested interest in the economy. They’re going to want to use this for completely different reasons.”