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Reverse Job Fair: Selling Young Professionals On Opportunities Available in Milwaukee

LaToya Dennis

Young professionals are gathering in Milwaukee this week for the second annual YP Week.

Events range from Tuesday’s morning yoga session at Discovery World to a job fair on Thursday. But it’s not your typical job fair.

When it comes to job fairs people searching for work usually tighten up their resumes and cover letters, put on their best business wear and walk around a convention center hoping to land a gig. But on Thursday, that traditional job fair concept will get turned on its head.

“People have options, and good people have a lot of options,” Michael Ganiere, manager of Talent Acquisition for Johnson Controls, says.

Johnson Controls is one of five local companies that will try to sell themselves to talented young professionals, even ones who aren’t actively looking to change jobs.

“It’s up to us and an employer to identify elements of our culture and why someone should be interested in working here," Ganiere says. "Not just to attach people who are just generally looking for work, but to attract the right people.”

Ganiere says the company has a number of positions that need to be filled ranging from human resources to IT. He says that while this job fair targets people already living here, attracting great talent from other places is often difficult. He says Milwaukee isn’t always the easiest city to sell people on, especially if they’ve never visited.

“I would say that if I could get somebody on a plane, I can sell them on Milwaukee. But getting them on a plane is the most difficult thing,” Ganiere says.

According to President and CEO of Briggs and Stratton Todd Teske, another difficulty employees face is encouraging young people who’ve been educated in Wisconsin to stay here. He says one of the benefits of local corporations is accessibility.

“When you look at all the different companies that are around town, there’s tremendous opportunity for people," Teske says. "And the access that you get to individuals within the companies, I would challenge someone to go to a big city elsewhere in the country and be able to go to an event where you could talk to senior executives at big companies. Often times it doesn’t happen.”

Danya Strait, with the Greater Milwaukee Committee, is one of the organizers. She says the companies participating in the event understand that young people are looking for balance in their careers.

“Millennials are a little bit pickier with the jobs they are looking for. They want a job that is going to give them flexibility, that perhaps give back to the community, that has different kinds of perks. It’s not all about the pay and it’s not all about the company name or the position,” Strait says.

Strait says the culture of a company is often more important to young professionals than anything else.

The reverse job fair starts at 6:30 pm Thursday at the Milwaukee Art Museum. The event is open to anyone, but registration is required. Along with Johnson Controls, Harley Davidson, GE Healthcare, WE Energies and Experis will participate.

LaToya was a reporter with WUWM from 2006 to 2021.
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