WESTERLY — The two-town, two-state, one-community approach that officials in both Westerly and Stonington often promote will produce another tangible result on Thursday in the form of a job fair at Westerly Education Center.
The fair, which came together through a developing collaboration between the Westerly Economic Development Commission and the Stonington Economic Development Commission, with support from the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce and the education center, is scheduled for Thursday from 3 to 6 p.m. at the center’s 23 Friendship St. facility.
Officials say employers in the region and throughout the country are struggling to find workers, and in some cases workers have expressed a struggle to find the right job. That imbalance combined with a discussion of ways to improve transportation options to get people into the downtown Westerly-Pawcatuck area spawned the idea for the fair.
“It seemed like everyone I talked to — whether it was a restaurant owner or a contractor or kind of across a wide swath of the economy — people were looking for employees, and we heard that potential employees were looking too. That’s when we started talking about a job fair. The idea was, how do we bring them all together?” said Dan Lathrop, a member of the Westerly Economic Development Commission.
Efforts to match employers with potential employees should not be affected by state lines, Lathrop said.
“Employers in Westerly hire people who live in Stonington, and employers in Stonington hire people who live in Westerly. So we said, ‘How can we partner together?’ and then reached out to the Stonington EDC,” Lathrop said.
James Torres, Westerly Economic Development Commission chairman, said the collaboration started a few years ago when members of the panel contacted their counterparts in Stonington.
“It goes back several years — we were looking to improve how we operate as a commission. One thing we did was reach out for other best practices, and we heard good things about the Stonington Economic Development Commission,” Torres said.
The Westerly-based Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce is acting as a sponsor of the job fair, helping to promote it and encouraging employers to participate. Some business owners have been forced to work more hours or in ways they had not for years due to a shortage of employees, said Lisa Konicki, the chamber’s executive director.
“Certain companies are looking at having to reduce hours because they can’t adequately staff their businesses because people just aren’t applying,” Konicki said.
The job fair, Lathrop said, might provide a boost for those who do wish to apply.
“There’s a lot of opportunity out there and there’s a lot of people looking. Hopefully this effort can bring those people together where opportunity can meet desire to work,” Lathrop said.
The following employers were expected to attend the fair as of Friday morning: Electric Boat; Toray Plastics Inc.; Ocean Community YMCA; Berkshire Hathaway Inc.; Washington Trust Co. Bank; Westerly Community Credit Union; The Fogarty Center, a nonprofit agency that provides services to children and adults with intellectual, developmental and other disabilities; Hitachi Cable America, a cable and medical device manufacturer; Rhode Island Blood Center; and Mama’s Sweet Treats.
Businesses interested in reserving a space for a recruitment table at the fair are asked to contact Faith Hanson at 401-584-4931 or [email protected] to book a table. There is no deadline for businesses to register, but contacting Hanson by Wednesday is recommended.
There is no charge to either employers or potential employees to participate, and potential employees are not required to pre-register.