The career fair was born out of a meeting of the coalition Baltimore Tracks, in which it was voiced that HBCU Bowie State University computer science majors were having a hard time finding jobs. Hearing this, Ed Mullin, chief information officer of tech and operations advisory firm Think Systems and co-chairman of the advisory board of workforce development org Year Up Baltimore, thought about his business contacts that were seeking to find talent. Instead of trying to decipher this chicken or the egg scenario that often manifests, where companies can’t find diverse talent and diverse talent can’t find companies that will hire them, Mullin decided to take action and do what good he could.
“The thought was, what could we do that was actionable and could have immediate impact,” said Mullin. “We could do something in eight weeks that would actually get people hired.”
The virtual career fair welcomed candidates from workforce development organizations Byte Back, Inc., Catalyte, NPower, Pass IT On, Inc – Community Technical Training, Per Scholas, and Year Up. It also offered these organizations the chance to work together and sharing contacts.
Employers like BD, Comcast, Erickson Living, Exelon, Ripple Effect, Fearless, LifeBridge Health, Social Security Administration, TEKsystems, University of Maryland Medical System, University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB), US Army, and Whitebox were all eager to be a part of the career fair.
The companies looked to meet those interested in tech careers, and were seeking entry-level positions, such as help desk operators as well as
candidates with A+ and Network+ experience.
Along with a Zoom event, the virtual career fair included one on one interviews using Brazen, a virtual platform specifically for career fairs and hiring events.
The participation from employers showed there was demand and eagerness to connect with diverse talent. However, it’s one step down the path toward making the hires that would ultimately lead to employment for those computer science graduates.
“There’s many parts of this that are really tough problems to solve,” said Mullin. “…The connections and the introductions are easy wins but are really important.”
Mullin detailed how a company can be looking for diverse talent, but the reason they don’t end up getting connected can be as simple as looking in the wrong place.
“You just were fishing in this pond instead of fishing in that pond. And sometimes that’s just because I didn’t know anybody at that pond or nobody at that pond invited me to their job fair,” said Mullin.
So far, Mullin is getting positive feedback about the event, and there’s an expectation to run the career fair again around spring graduation time for universities that will include college students and workforce development participants, along with those from the wider community under a hybrid model.
Donte Kirby is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation. -30-