October 26, 2016
Area agencies and organizations hope former residents will come “Home for the Holidays” and find good reasons to stay.
To help make that happen, the annual “Home for the Holidays” concert on Nov. 25 will merge with the annual “Home for the Holidays” job fair. Also, a website will be developed to showcase local job openings and other information for job-seekers.
A $10,000 Pick Up the Pace! (PUP) grant from The Harvest Foundation has been awarded to create the website and spread the word about the site and the event, according to Philip Wenkstern, project manager for WPWIB.
The event will be held on the Friday after Thanksgiving at the Rives Theater in uptown Martinsville. Rooster Walk has booked bands for the event.
The doors to the concert will open an hour earlier than usual. People who come during that time and participate in the job fair can attend the concert for free.
The hour will be an informal “meet and greet” time for visitors to learn about available jobs, network with other residents and discuss the benefits of living in Martinsville and Henry County, according to the PUP grant proposal and Wenkstern.
He called the hour more of a networking reception than a traditional job fair. For instance, instead of employers distributing information from tables positioned around the room, the website will be available on computers so participants can put in their information and resumes and learn about openings, Wenkstern said.
Job listings also will be printed out and distributed, he added.
The chamber of commerce will recruit businesses and industries that have openings to be marketed by the website and event, Wenkstern said. The event will target jobs for people with college educations and/or established careers such as those in skilled trades, he said, adding that job-seekers do not have to be local or former local residents.
The website’s theme will be “Welcome Home MHC,” Wenkstern said. It will feature local photographs “that should resonate with people who grew up in the community,” such as Martinsville Speedway, Oktoberfest and snow in uptown Martinsville, he said.
The site’s use will not be limited to use by local residents or people attending the Nov. 25 event, he said. It will be marketed in advance of the concert.
“Its purpose is to raise awareness about the opportunities in our community. The more people accessing the website the better,” he said, whether they are home for the holidays or viewing the website from outside the area.
Wenkstern said he and chamber President Amanda Witt came up with the idea of piggybacking the job event and website onto the concert.
“This event will combine the concert that has a longstanding track record of attracting local college graduates that currently live in other areas, with a job fair that highlights the available positions, the favorable cost of living, low real estate costs and cultural entertainment” in the local area, according to the PUP grant proposal.
The Home for the Holidays concerts, sponsored by Arts at the Rives Theater (ART), have sold out in each of the last four years. They have attracted hundreds of current college students and recent college graduates who were home visiting their families during the holidays. Many of these people left the area to pursue education or employment elsewhere because of stigmas such as “no jobs” available locally and there being nothing to do in the area, according to the PUP proposal.
At the same time, holiday job fairs held annually by the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce have highlighted jobs available locally, but they failed to attract a large number of participants. That should change by merging the job fair with the concert, the proposal states.
Organizers hope the new event will showcase the diverse, rewarding careers available locally as well as the vibrant arts and culture scene that improves each year to dispel both stigmas about the area, the proposal states.
“Martinsville and Henry County has a lot to offer job seekers and those who may be looking for another career path,” said Dewitt House, senior program officer at Harvest. “We’re proud to support an innovative program like this that gets the word out about the jobs and careers available in our area.”
The event also is designed to inject fresh talent and credentials into the local workforce, and give employers a chance to market vacant positions at no cost to a larger labor pool than their traditional efforts would reach, the proposal states.
Pick Up the Pace! — PUP for short — is a competitive program for grants that are capped at $10,000 each. It funds projects that can be completed within six months and have clear, measurable benefits to the community.
The PUP grant program is designed to encourage collaborative thinking, brainstorming and partnerships, leading to positive change in local neighborhoods and communities, according to The Harvest Foundation.
Wenkstern said the PUP grant was one of the few sources of funds available for a project such as “Home for the Holidays” because most WIB funds have certain restrictions. “We are fortunate and grateful to have access to these funds,” he added of the grant.
For more information, contact the foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (276) 632-3329.
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