Slim pickings found in Island job scene

She’s only been here for a week, but already Danielle Remick has found nothing but frustration during her search for a new job.

“There just isn’t much for employment,” she said.

Remick was one of the approximately 400 people who streamed into the Oak Harbor Elks lodge Thursday hoping to find that perfect job during a job fair attended by more than 20 local and regional businesses.

According to Washington’s Employment Security Department, approximately 1,400 people in Island County were without work in September. Island County’s 4.9 percent unemployment rate was below the state rate of 5.1 percent.

One of the reasons so many people are jobless in the county is because of the county’s independent spirit. Sharon Hart, executive director of the Island County Economic Development Council, said that 75 percent of the county’s businesses have fewer than eight employees.

“That doesn’t give you a lot of diversity to look for jobs in your field,” Hart said.

Island County’s mix of younger people entering the workforce and retirees looking for part-time work make it difficult to find entry-level jobs, Worksource Director Janet Pickard said.

“People just starting out, or kids coming in, don’t really care where they work, they just want a job,” Pickard said. “All of these positions need to be filled, and there’s a perfect job out there for everyone.”

One of those people looking to begin their next chapter was Oak Harbor resident Gil Daigle. Daigle lost his job after Wells Fargo bought out Pacific Northwest Bank earlier this year.

“I’d like to find something in Oak Harbor, but let’s face it, there’s not much here,” Daigle said.

Daigle, who also holds a chemistry degree, stopped and chatted with almost all of the booths, even Wal-Mart. A person is considered underemployed if they are not working up to their level of education. In Island County, this is a big problem, Hart said.

Many highly educated people retire from the Navy or settle here after college, Hart said.

“When Big 5 sports opened, they had more applicants who matched their management training program than ever,” Hart said.

People also come to Whidbey Island looking to change their careers, Pickard said.

One of those people looking for that change was Elizabeth Kocean, who moved from southern California approximately one month ago.

“I’m just looking for new opportunities,” Kocean said. “When you’re new to the area, it’s really difficult.”

The job fair provided her with an opportunity to network and meet with people. She said she already had applied at several of the employers at the job fair.

“I haven’t been getting the feedback I would expect,” she said.

Kocean said her background was in retail management, but being unemployed is beginning to take its toll on her.

“At this point, I would be willing to work as a clerk,” she said.

The job fair also gave growing businesses an opportunity to expand their workforce and find new faces. Within the first hour of the job fair, Jeanne Lepisto of Island Home Nursing had already found two applicants she was extremely pleased with. Lepisto said that her problem is a high turnover of employees, many of whom are Navy spouses.

“I just find that every six months I spend $1,500 just looking for quality employees,” she said.

Finding a job has never been an easy task, just ask the 1,400 people looking for that perfect job.

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