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Hundreds of job seekers swapped their résumés with dozens of recruiters at the annual job fair at IPFW on Friday.

Standing out in the crowd

Job fair applicants urged to stay flexible, open to interim work

Résumés are traded for applications as job seekers spoke with dozens of recruiters at the annual job fair sponsored by IPFW and Rep. Marlin Stutzman on Friday.

– Daniel Miller hopes he’s the needle in the haystack.

Surrounded by hundreds of fellow job hunters during a job fair Friday at IPFW, the 30-year-old did his best to stand out.

He started by attending a news conference hosted by the event’s sponsors, IPFW and Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd.

“He and I have spoken before about my ideas about ammonia fuel as it relates to the agricultural industry,” said Miller, who describes himself as an aspiring entrepreneur from Huntertown.

“I got my master’s degree from Saint Francis, so I want to try and find work here because the school isn’t known outside of our region as much. It does help to know people.”

Organizers estimated about 900 converged on IPFW’s campus for what officials call one of the area’s most well-attended employment expos. About 50 employers had nearly 1,000 positions to fill. Companies included 80/20 Inc., BAE Systems Inc., Costco Wholesale Corp., PepsiCo Inc. and Westpoint Financial Group. The Fort Wayne metropolitan statistical area saw unemployment rise to 8.2 percent in June from 7.7 percent the previous month.

After co-sponsoring the job fair with Stutzman’s office for three years, IPFW spokeswoman Nicole Wilkins said organizers think it’s time to conduct a formal company survey. They want to learn just how many people actually landed jobs.

“That is something that we’ve talked about and will do,” Wilkins said. “We feel it is important to know. We’ll probably start surveying employers a few weeks after the fair.”

Stutzman said job candidates should explore various employment options.

“The economy is still moving and changing,” Stutzman said.

Job hunters may find careers in areas they hadn’t considered, he said, so it pays to be flexible.

Travis Sutton is doing just that. The 20-year-old Ivy Tech Community College junior said he’s just feeling out the job market, but if an opportunity arises he’ll grab it.

“I’ve been a computer programmer for a while now and know that there could be something out there,” he said.

An internship, a job co-op opportunity or something similar would pique Sutton’s interest, he said.

“I have a job, so I’m working and going to school,” Sutton said. “It’s always good to see what’s out there.”

Brunswick Corp. participated in the job fair. It is investing $8 million at its new location, the former Manitowoc Foodservice on North Hadley Road. The high-end pontoon boat maker announced the move from West State Boulevard in June.

The company also expects to double its workforce with 200 additional employees by 2016.

“We’re looking for the right person for the job,” said Mark Schaefer, human resources manager for Brunswick. “When you come to a job fair, you hope to find what you’re looking for.”