HUNTINGTON, WV (WOWK) — Since the pandemic shut down many local restaurants and businesses, local employers have not only dealt with the loss of income but also a lack of employees.

A large job fair in Huntington—put on by Cabell County Schools, the Huntington Area Development Council, the Huntington Municipal Development Authority, and the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce—is trying to bridge that gap Thursday.

The cafeteria of Huntington High School looks a little different.

“We have more than 50 employers here today in a wide variety of roles—everything from restaurants to manufacturers to healthcare concerns. As far as the number of opportunities, there are lots. A lot of people have a lot of positions to fill,” says Bill Bissett, president and CEO of the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Filling those open positions has been tough for many of these local businesses.

“COVID hurt. People just weren’t applying. It was rough,” says Shelly Ross, human resource specialist with ResCare.

“West Virginia traditionally has had the lowest workforce participation rate in the nation. So this is a problem for us, I think COVID only made it worse. There is no greater concern right now for many of our member companies than staffing,” Bissett says.

So to try to keep business booming in the area, this job fair is trying to connect employer…to potential employees—like recent college graduate Peter Mills.

“I graduated from Marshall in the spring, and I want to stay in Huntington, and all of these jobs are, for the most part, in the area. I’ve talked to multiple employers even outside of my field and everyone’s been nice, and helpful,” Mills says.

Or Eric Robbins, who is casting a net for new opportunities.

“I like what I’m currently doing, but I’m always wanting to seek out other opportunities, see what’s there,” Robbins says.

Job seekers say the intense need for staffing in the area seems promising to them.

“It seems like everybody’s looking for workers, so you kind of have your pick in a sense,” Mills says.

“At times past there wasn’t job opportunities but now since corona and stimulus and everything’s out there now, they’re looking to staff and I think that’s great,” Robbins says.

One resume at a time, these businesses are looking to put people to work.

The job fair ran from noon to 2:00pm, and from 5:00pm to 7:00pm.