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Hopes, Dreams and New Hampshire Spirit

Friday, August 28th, 2009

They arrived at 6 a.m. full of positive energy, good humor and the hope that today might be the day.  They arrived in business suits, jeans, dresses and shorts. They arrived knowing that there were over 1,000 available jobs and 150 companies looking for skilled workers.

wmur-job-fair-ii-015Over 5,000 job seekers made their way to the WMUR Project Economy Job Fair & Career Expo sponsored by the State of New Hampshire, WMUR and New Hampshire Motor Speedway at the track yesterday. Several of the faces at the Job Fair seemed familiar – there was a bit of overlap from the First Project Economy Job Fair earlier in the year at Southern New Hampshire University. That event was notable for having to be closed down hours early when approximately 10,000 job seekers clogged streets and brought traffic to a standstill. It was also notable for employing over 500 citizens with many more hirings going unrecorded.

There were no such logistical issues yesterday at a venue that seats over 120,000 race fans at NASCAR events. Traffic moved briskly both on the road and in the four garages used to house displays from employers offering jobs ranging from IT technician to retail manager.

wmur-job-fair-ii-009Not only were job seekers able to speak with employers and distribute resumes, they were also able to learn resume writing and other employability skills at workshops that were jam packed throughout the day. Shortly after 10 a.m. when Miss New Hampshire Lindsey Graham stirred the crowd with the National Anthem, the word went out quickly that if you wanted to sign up for a workshop, you needed to be fleet of foot.

The New Hampshire spirit of volunteerism and neighbors helping neighbors was perhaps the most heartening  aspect of the day. In addition to the State team that joined with WMUR and New Hampshire Motor Speedway, there was a group of volunteers that gave their time, energy and passion to ensure that job seekers had a positive experience. There were the National Guard volunteers who whooped and hollered every time that the trams delivering the job seekers from the parking lot to the venue rode by, keeping spirits high and creating smiles. There was the team of workers young and old who arrived the day before the fair to set up tables and spread linens. There were also the event guardian angels who dealt with language barriers, crossed signals and endless questions, all with a genuine desire to just be part of a solution.

The Job Fair was not a place for singlemindedness. During the course of the day, I was a parking lot attendant, media representative, set-up crew member, tram assistant and official greeter for the Governor and Miss New Hampshire. I wasn’t the only one….not by a long stretch. Every member of the 90 person volunteer army was required to take on a number of different roles – when you’re trying to get folks employed, no job is too small or insignificant.

For me to thank everyone who played a part in the success of the event would be nearly impossible. What I will say is that anyone who played any part in taking care of their neighbors, friends, brothers, sisters at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on August 27th 2009 gave a part of their spirit and their soul to ensure that others would have a chance to put food on the table, provide for their children and contribute to our state’s economy and well-being. They deserve your thanks and your respect.

In closing, I happened to sit on a curb with an older woman midway through the day. She had just gotten laid off from her job on Monday and was hoping to get re-employed quickly. She was understandably down about her situation, but hopeful that one of the resumes that she dropped off would catch an employer’s eye and lead to a new opportunity.  I pray that she and all of the other hopeful faces I saw yesterday will receive the calls that they’ve been waiting for and can celebrate again…..but until then, please know that we all owe it to each other to look out for our neighbors and to lend a helping hand. After all, isn’t that what the New Hampshire spirit is all about?

– Steve Boucher, Communications & Legislative Director