Make no mistake, help is definitely wanted.
The city of Brownsville and the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation held a press conference Thursday to get the word out about a “Careers and Coffee” jobs expo taking place on June 28 at the Brownsville Events Center. The event included representatives from several major employers — including the city — who together have hundreds of open positions they’re very interested in filling.
A career expo the city had planned to hold last year was canceled due to the pandemic. Helen Ramirez, deputy city manager and GBIC executive director, said it made sense for the city to partner with GBIC and coordinate with specific large employers for this month’s rescheduled free expo.
When making the rounds of companies in February after taking the helm at GBIC, Ramirez learned of the two major “pain points” the businesses were dealing with: getting their employees vaccinated and filling jobs — lots of them, she said. Job-seekers during the expo will have their pick of careers in fields such as medicine, social work, maintenance, engineering, welding and human resources to name a few.
Besides the city, the participating organizations are DHR Health, which is opening a new hospital in Brownsville this fall, National Electric Coil, Southwest Key, SpaceX and the ship recycler SteelCoast, located at the Port of Brownsville. All told, more than 1,500 positions are available in the Brownsville area, about 200 of those with the city, Ramirez said.
The city has more than 1,100 employees across its many departments, though a number of vital positions have yet to be filled, many of them with Brownsville Metro, the city’s public transit service, she said.
“B Metro is the largest transit operator in the RGV and serves a million people a year,” Ramirez said. “They need bus drivers, machine operators, grounds and road workers — essential positions we need to fill.”
The shortage of employees didn’t start with the pandemic, though it’s been exacerbated by the fact that lockdown measures and social distancing made it difficult for companies to meet and interview potential hires in-person, she said.
“They’ve gone virtual,” Ramirez said. “I’m sure that’s been successful up to a certain point.”
Also, federal relief payments and extra unemployment benefits provided to Americans during the pandemic may be causing some to take their time in job hunting, she said. Those funds have helped sustain workers who lost income due to COVID-19, though Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced last month that after June 26 the state will decline future federal unemployment assistance for Texans, including an additional $300-per-week benefit approved by Congress this year.
“I think it’s kind of the right time in terms of those people are going to be looking for jobs,” Ramirez said. “We have recent graduates from universities, and then you just have people who want to change their career. … That’s why we’re here. We’re here to get people jobs, to get them excited about our growth and our resiliency as a city.”
GBIC and the city are collaborating with Texas Southmost College, Texas Workforce Commission, Texas Workforce Solutions and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley on the 11-hour expo, which will target job-seekers from Brownsville and beyond and offer free, professional head shots for resumes, a resume workshop and networking opportunities. Some hiring will take place on the spot.
SpaceX’s lead human resources representative was a no-show for Thursday’s press conference, though SteelCoast’s human resources director said the company has 60 to 100 positions available. Representatives from DHR Health and National Electric Coil’s staffing firm said the companies have dozens of positions that need filling, while Southwest Key’s human resources chief said his organization has about 400 jobs to fill.
Brownsville City Commissioner John Cowen Jr. said the career expo is aimed in part at retrieving lost talent: young people who have departed Brownsville or the Valley for job opportunities elsewhere but might be persuaded to return with the growth of opportunities now.
“We have to make sure we’re there for them and be able to attract talent to bring back from across the state,” he said.
Registration for expo workshops is requested but not required. To register, go to btxcareers.com.
>> Who: Coffee and Careers Expo
>> When: June 28, from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m.
>> Where: Brownsville Events Center, located at 1 Event Center Rd.