You’re Hired!

As the Flathead's economy continues to gather momentum, it's a job-seeker's market with hundreds of openings and opportunities

By Molly Priddy
Matthew Bussard makes an espresso with milk from his cart on Oct. 6, 2015. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

It’s undeniable: the Flathead is booming.

Construction crews are buzzing on projects across the valley, the county’s population has hit 100,000 for the first time, and the economy continues to push forward with hundreds of job openings.

And with so much happening, it’s a prime job market for those seeking employment or a career change.

“We currently have 825 jobs posted,” said Laura Gardner, manager at the Kalispell Job Service. “I think that’s almost 100 more than last week when I looked at it.”

The job openings range across the board, from the medical field to tourism-based businesses, seeking skilled and unskilled labor. Many of the employers will be at the upcoming Spring 2018 Job Fair on April 26.

“There’s no one certain industry (looking for workers); every industry is looking for folks right now,” Gardner said.

It’s a time of opportunity, not only for entrepreneurs and developers, but also for anyone interested in a new job, a career change, or just a way to pay rent while living in Glacier Country.

As local businesses continue to search for ideal candidates to fill their ranks, some took the time to discuss what makes for a great employee, how to effectively apply for the job you want, and the perks of businesses trying to attract and retain solid personnel.

NXGEN, a global payment services provider based in Whitefish and serving 30 countries, recently bumped up to about 50 employees, according to Anna Stene, head of North American operations.

The last several years have been a time of strategic, aggressive growth for the company, Stene said, and finding the right individuals for the job openings is a key part of their future success.

One way the company tries to attract top-level personnel is starting every position with a livable wage, she said.

“I hire at entry level, and we have a company policy of a livable wage,” Stene said. “We start everyone at $15 regardless of experience.”

Stene also makes sure to inform potential candidates about the possibilities of moving up the ladder in the company; she herself started at an entry-level position not long ago and showed initiative to move up to management.

NXGEN is looking for what most companies these days seek in an employee, she said: people who are technologically savvy but also relationship-based folks who can engage in customer service. And the company hones those skills.

“One thing my department in particular offers to young professionals or even somebody who is looking to switch careers is that it brings two of those basic talents that every company needs,” Stene said.

Joel Daniher, a manager at a local construction firm, said his company looks for people with potential to develop, both in skilled and unskilled labor. With so many job opportunities, there’s also potential to find a position in which an employee can grow.

“Care is the key,” Daniher said. “Demonstrate that you care about being a really good employee and work for a company that cares about you.”

An easy and immediate way to show you care is to understand resume trends, Stene said. She recommended using consistent formatting, fonts, and reading the job description thoroughly so you can use its language in your resume and cover letter.

“It shows that you are really interested,” she said.

Daniher said his company has also branched out to looking for diamonds in the rough, so to speak, and shining them up through mentorship and apprenticeship programs.

“With almost full employment and an aging workforce, we have had to become more creative in how we recruit,” Daniher said. “One of our approaches is to invest for the long-term by establishing intern and apprenticeship programs.”

Gardner with the Kalispell Job Service said these types of programs are catching on with employers, because while they don’t have the depth of the skilled-labor pool that they’d like, apprenticing allows companies to build their perfect employee from the ground up.

“Those workers can get the skills while still earning a wage,” Gardner said.

In most cases, the technical aspects of a job aren’t as important as the potential employee’s attitude, all of the managers said.

“In the vast majority of cases, attitude and personality trump technical knowledge,” Daniher said.

Wages are also low in Montana when compared to other states, though the lack of workforce has been driving them upward in the Flathead a bit, Gardner said. This directly affects the workforce’s ability to live here, and affordable housing continues to be an issue for many workers in the valley.

“At the end of the day in the Flathead, we also have a serious cost-of-living issue with affordable housing,” Gardner said. “If people can’t afford where they live, it creates instability, which immediately impacts employers in their ability to retain staff.”

Increased wages can attract workers, and NXGEN also includes perks such as education reimbursement, paid days to volunteer at a nonprofit, and generally treating employees like a large family, a key characteristic of many Montana-based businesses.

Gardner said the issues of low wages and a lack of skilled workers in the area are perennial problems, and that various employers and entities, including Flathead Valley Community College, continue to respond to those needs.

“Employers have to look at different ways of hiring and training workers,” she said.


Spring 2018 Job Fair

When: April 26, 2:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Where: The Gateway Community Center, 1203 W. Idaho St., Kalispell

What: At least 100 local employers seeking all types of employees

Who: You!

More information: (406) 758-6273

 

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