Middletown City School District scramble to fill positions with rare job fair

MIDDLETOWN — For the first time, Middletown Schools recently tried a jobs fair on one of its campuses in hopes of filling chronic employee shortages affecting the city schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first of its kind jobs event at Middletown Middle School attracted dozens of applicants, many of whom are now going through the candidate evaluation process, said school officials.

“The pandemic has caused us to pivot and adjust to the times,” said Kee Edwards, assistant human resources director for Middletown Schools.

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“This pandemic has compelled us to pursue different approaches to hiring employees and to make more of an effort to pitch ourselves as great employers,” Edwards said.

“We hoped to showcase the great initiatives taking place within Middletown Schools and to develop new relationships with future employees. We know the foundation for our success will depend on the relationships we build with our employees and future employees,” he said.

Elizabeth Beadle, spokeswoman for the 6,300-student city schools, said more features were added to expand the scope of the job fair.

“In the past, we’ve hosted an evening for new teachers, typically seniors at the universities nearby. But this year, we’re inviting (candidates for non-teaching jobs) plus our own maintenance and custodial teams and doing an all positions fair,” said Beadle.

Among district officials speaking to applicants was Superintendent Marlon Styles Jr. who helped to tout working for the school system.

Open positions for next school year include: teachers; school support staff; bus drivers, food service and custodial and maintenance jobs.

Candidates who attended saw a sped-up application process with on-site interviews, laptops at the ready for applications, raffles and free food afterwards.

The extra efforts in filling job positions reflects similar dilemmas for schools across the region and the nation.

And public and private schools are also reflecting private industry employee shortages since the COVID-19 pandemic’s onset in March 2020.

One example is the restaurant industry, where restaurant operators expect the labor shortage to continue at least through this year, according to the 2022 State of the Restaurant Industry report.

More than half of restaurant operators say it could be a year, or more, before business conditions return to normal. Food, labor and rent costs are anticipated to be high, continuing to impact profit margins, according to the report.

Among the applicants was Brianne Cobb, who was interested in a school support staff or cafeteria job, and said she appreciated the pre-registration option.

“It didn’t take more than two minutes and I like to be around kids,” said Cobb.

Fellow job-seeker Jerrica Harris said “I’m excited about being a teacher’s aide.”

Of the new job fair event by the district, Harris said “I really like it and it was fun. They helped me with my job application. It was a good experience.”

For more information on applying for jobs, go to Middletown Schools’ website.

Photojournalist Nick Graham contributed to this story.

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