Massive job fair draws thousands seeking new positions. Many got them.

Job seekers visit booths during the Spring Job Fair at the Las Vegas Convention Center Friday, ...

It didn’t take long for Christian Saldivar to get his first job offer at the Spring Job Fair. He approached the Walgreens booth, sitting front and center at Friday’s massive hiring event in the Las Vegas Convention Center’s west hall, and was hired as a customer service associate within a minute.

“It feels really good. I feel like I had help from someone from up there,” Salvidar said. “I hope it’s true.”

He was just the type of prospective employee that Cathy Agundez, the store manager of the Walgreens near MGM Grand on the Strip, had hoped to find.

“The young man came up, was very presentable with a great smile and great energy and was looking for work and wanting something that’s a career builder,” she said. “That’s what I’m looking for.”

Saldivar’s offer was one of about 450 made on the spot during the five-hour event hosted by Clark County Commissioners Jim Gibson and Tick Segerblom, Nevada JobConnect and Workforce Connections.

Firms were eager to meet, interview and hire 6,100 job seekers who visited the fair, one of the highest turnouts of recent large-scale hiring efforts. As Nevada’s economic recovery inches close to pre-pandemic levels, employers said they needed to ramp up their employment to match the consumer demand returning to Las Vegas.

‘Genuinely interested’

Though employers say they are faced with a competitive labor market and low applicant pools, the spring event’s significant turnout suggested to some that workers are returning. Nevada’s employment data from March showed the state is within 10,000 jobs of its pre-pandemic peak, the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation said on Thursday.

Kim Hagans, a human resources specialist with Nevada State Bank, said the turnout was so successful that the staff had to bring in more supplies mid-event.

“They seem genuinely interested in employment,” Hagans said of the job seekers. “A lot of times you’ll see people just coming along for the tchotchkes, but they’re genuinely interested in what we have to say and what positions that we have open.”

More job offers are expected in coming weeks because not all employers could do on-site interviews and hiring. The last mass job fair at the convention center — held in December by Gov. Steve Sisolak’s office — attracted 2,100 potential employees and resulted in about 250 offers that day.

Appeal of higher wages

Some attendees came to the event because it advertised jobs that pay at least $18/hour. Companies were asked to have at least five jobs at that rate, but some positions had lower starting pay. Gibson, the Clark County Commission chairman, said he hoped filling those positions would open others at lower but still livable wages.

“This is going to be really important to the economy because at the front, we’re going to have some businesses who have not been able to step up the number of shifts that they require,” Gibson said.

Wages were not the only factor in an appealing job opening for some candidates. Some said they sought a place they could advance and would support employees holistically. DeAndre Esteen, vice president, contact center site coordinator for the international bank Barclays, said the company adjusted its benefits and wages to match the evolvution of what it means to be an employer of choice.

The company has 1,100 employees and will hire 600 more in the next 18 months, he said. Starting wages begin at $20.50/hour.

“Folks don’t want to feel dispensable. They want to feel like, ‘I want to see myself at a place where I can grow long term, where I can be comfortable, where I can earn a livable wage,” Esteen said. “It’s not just that we’re interviewing job seekers. Job seekers are now interviewing companies and we have to understand that.”

Searching for career growth

Las Vegas resident Shatobe Hall said he had been job-searching for about a month and was eager to find a career with advancement opportunities.

“I feel stifled,” Hall said. “I’ve been in retail and it gets to the point where you reach your peak. Is this it, or is there more? So, I need career moves. When I saw $18/hour, (I thought) I can learn fast.”

Others said they came seeking a career change. Tay’Paris Buckner worked in transportation services as a chauffeur for 17 years but was laid off during the pandemic. She’s now working in the gig economy while looking for a full-time job with a traditional Monday to Friday schedule.

Buckner said she has been job hunting since the fall. Her biggest challenge is the years of required experience working with certain computer programs that she does not have, coming from a different industry.

“I started working at 9 years old when my brother and I did the paper route,” Buckner said. “That’s cute, but it’s still getting up at 4 a.m. to have the paper out at 6 a.m. (As a chauffeur,) I was doing 14-hour days when there were big conventions in town. After you do that for so many years of working, you kind of want to just get yourself into something that is career building.”

McKenna Ross is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Contact her at mross@reviewjournal.com. Follow @mckenna_ross_ on Twitter.k