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Job seekers pack job fair

Michael Akehurst and Josiah Peterson, studying medical laboratory technology at Alexandria Community and Technical College, voiced confidence about their job prospects after attending the Alexandria Area Job Fair on Thursday, Feb. 8. (Karen Tolkkinen / Echo Press)

About 450 job seekers stopped by the Alexandria Area Job Fair on Wednesday, Feb. 7, about 100 more than last year, an organizer said.

While good news at a time of a labor shortage in Douglas County, organizer Kris Willert, a job counselor with Rural Minnesota CEP, was reluctant to draw conclusions.

"It could be any number of factors," she said. "It could be the weather or date we picked. It could have nothing to do with the economy."

Whatever caused the uptick, Willert said she was glad to see it. About 50 employers staffed booths at the fair, which was held in the Law Enforcement gym at Alexandria Technical & Community College. They include local companies such as Aagard and Knute Nelson, as well as employers from elsewhere, including the Valley Queen Cheese Factory from Milbank, South Dakota, and Korber Medipak, a Swiss manufacturer with an office in Fargo.

The jobless rate is 3.7 percent in Douglas County, according to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

Students Michael Akehurst and Josiah Peterson, both studying medical laboratory technology in Alexandria, said they had to attend the job fair as a class requirement.

However, Akehurst said he was intrigued to learn his degree could land him a job at Douglas County Hospital. Although he hails from Minneapolis, he said he would be willing to stay in Alexandria for work.

The two graduate in 2018 and seemed fairly confident about their job prospects.

"There's an outrageous need" for medical laboratory technicians, Peterson said.