This summer, for the first time in more than 30 years, Ron Andrekanic is polishing off his resume and looking for work.
The White Oak resident boasts decades of experience in polymer sciences, analytical chemistry and, in his words, “anything related to plastics and the plastics engineering field.” Since being downsized from a Pittsburgh research facility a few months ago, he’s been keeping busy working for the U.S. Postal Service and attending online seminars by the Society of Analytical Chemists of Pittsburgh, where he’s a member.
Among others who also are seeking work during this unprecedented pandemic, he turned to Jewish Family and Community Services for help and “attended” a virtual employer meet-and-greet session through the organization in late June. More virtual programming is in the pipeline.
“At first, I thought [being virtual] was going to be very challenging but they have a really good system in place,” said Andrekanic, 58.
“I do miss the personal interaction – I’m kind of old school,” he added. “But [the event] was a great dialogue where you could interact with people in HR directly – and it allows for good follow-up.”
As unemployment in Allegheny County climbed above 15 percent in June, JFCS brought nearly 50 job seekers and companies ranging from Duquesne Light to Dollar Bank to the City of Pittsburgh for the online forum, which was conducted via video conferencing.
“It was just a really great way for our clients to have interaction, basically one-on-one conversations, with someone who could have been across the table,” said Tamara Abney, JFCS employer relations specialist. “With this event, people logged in at specific times for different industries, so people were viewing jobs they are specifically interested in. And employers connected with people they know will be interested.”
Abney said many of the jobs focused on technical and engineering skills but JFCS also brought in companies from the manufacturing, real estate and higher education sectors, like The Buncher Company and the University of Pittsburgh.
“Nothing can take the place of meeting someone in person,” noted Dollar Bank’s Carol Moon, but added she was excited to take part in the June 23 event and hopes to attend more sessions like it in the future.
“As a company, we are always interested in contributing to community outreach,” said Moon, the assistant vice president of talent acquisition for Dollar Bank.
To Samuel Germino, the session wasn’t all that new.
Germino, who started in February in the City of Pittsburgh’s newly anointed talent acquisition coordinator position, said he was attending two to three “job fair”- style events each week before COVID-19 broke out.
Since then, he’s been conducting business virtually – and there are benefits, he stressed.
“There’s more one-on-one,” Germino said. “You can chat with individuals. Where, at a conference or fair, you have a line of individuals to meet. The virtual format is great.”
Germino said he has followed up with about six to 10 applicants from the JFCS event.
“My two favorite things are helping people and promoting Pittsburgh,” he said.
Plans are in the works for more employer sessions, according to Abney.
“We were happy we were able to adapt and make something work,” she said. “It definitely benefitted the client.”
Andrekanic still is looking for work, but remains optimistic – and realistic.
“It’s a whole new experience for me,” he told the Chronicle. “I hope JFCS continues them.” PJC
Justin Vellucci is a freelance writer living in Pittsburgh.