Turnout for the Careers and Coffee Expo on June 28 at the Brownsville Events Center surpassed the expectations of organizers, the city of Brownsville and the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation.
Helen Ramirez, deputy city manager and GBIC executive director, said more than 1,800 job seekers from around the Rio Grande Valley, the state and as far away as Canada and Hawaii streamed through the doors of the Brownsville Events Center for the 12-hour event, which was advertised nationally.
“When I showed up at 7:45 in the morning at the event center there was already a line,” she said.
On the hiring side were 25 area employers including the city itself, hospitals, ship recycling and various other industries. Texas Southmost College and the University of Texas RGV were on hand, as was SpaceX and community organizations such as YouthBuild Brownsville. A number of job applicants were hired on the spot.
Following a June 10 press conference announcing the expo, more companies eager to take part, though there was only room for so many, Ramirez said.
“We actually switched around the floor plan to accommodate as many companies as possible that reached out after the press conference,” she said. “We also felt that we had to cap it or else it would be a very crowded event and we wouldn’t be able to have the interview area. We didn’t want to compromise the experience of our participants.”
In addition to space for face-to-face interviews, a rarity through the pandemic, the expo provided computers for online applications and professional head shots compliments of the city. Ramirez said companies that could not be squeezed in are already registered and will be given priority to come to the next expo, which will be sometime next year but less than a year from now.
She said surveys have been sent to employers that participated in the June 28 expo to find out how many interviews were conducted, how many people were hired or hired conditionally, and other information organizers can use in planning for the next one.
Ramirez said that back in February when she began talking to local employers after taking over at GBIC, she quickly learned that a major “pain point” for those companies was the struggle to find enough employees. Some even had to turn down contracts because of a dearth of personnel, she said. Roughly 1,700 jobs were being advertised during the expo, with the city alone offering more than 200 positions.
Ramirez said the event was designed in part to lure talented young people from the Valley who left the area for opportunities elsewhere, and that the volume of jobs available proves options exist here — especially as the economy recovers from the pandemic and many young people are looking for a way to return.
“We spent time marketing as much as possible in other cities, because we realize that much of the talent that has left Brownsville, she said.” There are a lot of people that are coming back from Houston. The oil and gas market was hit (by the pandemic). What we’ve found is that many people want to come back. … What we wanted to demonstrate is that you don’t necessarily have to leave the Brownsville area or the Valley or South Texas.”
If the sheer number of inquiries the city has received about when the next expo will happen is any indication, the first one was a smashing success, Ramirez said.
“When people are asking you when the next event is, I think that is a measure of success,” she said, expressing gratitude to those involved in making it a reality, including city employees, GBIC’s many industry partners that participated and “just the community for coming and making it the largest career expo in South Texas.”