KAILUA-KONA — Fresh out of college, Kahanu Villafania walked among the tables at Friday’s American Job Center Hawaii job fair, exploring what opportunities might be awaiting him.
Villafania, 20, just graduated from Hawaii Community College-Palamanui with an associate’s degree in applied science in hospitality and tourism, and said he was looking to see what front desk and front-of-house positions the industry had to offer.
“It’s going really well,” he said. “They’re very friendly and they’d really love to have me work for them. And they’re very helpful getting me through the application process.”
The state of Hawaii has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. At just 2.8% this past April, Hawaii is in a four-way tie for fifth with Idaho, South Dakota and Wisconsin, according to federal data.
Of the state’s counties, Hawaii County has the highest unemployment rate at 3.8%, compared to the range of 2.6-2.9% in the other counties.
Friday’s job fair at Old Kona Airport Park’s Makaeo Pavilion brought out about 50 employers from sectors throughout the region, giving those looking for a new job or career change a range of opportunities to consider as well as a chance to meet recruiters face-to-face.
“It’s always better to go face-to-face,” said Duane Hosaka, assistant housing administrator at the Office of Housing and Community Development, an American Job Center Hawaii partner. Hosaka estimated that in total between 50 and 60 job seekers came out for the event.
In a world where so much of the recruiting and hiring process takes place over the Internet, job fairs like this still offer some advantages to employers and job seekers.
“You can see the person,” said Hosaka. “You can talk to them and if you think they’re good, you can hire them right there, right on the spot.”
Getting that face time with potential recruits is particularly important for employers like Roberts Hawaii, whose job openings included school bus drivers, who are out in the community on a near-daily basis.
Villafania said he felt like the job fair was a lot better than job hunting online.
“It’s actually a lot better when you get to see them in person,” he said. “You really get to see their reaction and ask them really personal questions one-on-one. So it’s nice.” He said he learned in his hospitality program that showing face can give job seekers an advantage.