Keeping millennials here

March 19th, 2018

By Lisa Green | The Journal Gazette

Brett Bennett has a bachelor's degree in electrical and computer engineering technology, so he's not the type you expect would find it tough to land full-time work.

But Bennett, a Purdue University graduate, recalls working more than half a year as a subcontractor before getting a full-time gig with a Fort Wayne manufacturer. Having regular income was nice, but Bennett points out subcontractors don't always earn the benefits that company employees enjoy.

“What I've kind of noticed a lot with my generation of co-workers is a lot of companies are much more likely to kind of try you out,” said Bennett, 25, who grew up in Markle and now lives in downtown Fort Wayne.

Bennett is part of the millennial generation that many business and civic leaders want to keep in Fort Wayne and northeast Indiana. Three local Rotary clubs have planned a Career Connections Expo for Saturday.

More than 60 businesses and organizations are expected to participate, including Safeguard Business Systems, Schenkel Construction, Micropulse Inc., 3Rivers Federal Credit Union, BAE Systems and YMCA of Greater Fort Wayne.

“So many times, we hear that students have a difficult time finding local jobs,” Tim Gibson, president of the Rotary Club of Fort Wayne, said in a statement. “I know in my own family, my daughter really wanted to stay in Fort Wayne, but had a hard time finding a position.”

Organizers also expect the expo to provide an opportunity for Rotarians and business leaders to network. Rotary Clubs co-sponsoring the event are the Rotary Club of Fort Wayne, Anthony Wayne Rotary and Summit City South Rotary.

Networking and connections can be invaluable for starting or advancing careers. Bennett said his job search required many applications online. But it's hard to know where you stand when that's the process.

“You kind of take the shotgun approach where you fill out a bunch of applications and maybe hope to hear back from some,” Bennett said.

He said the face-to-face contact at a planned expo is preferable for those in the job hunt.

Bennett said he has a lot of friends in engineering, and for those who end up as subcontractors, “more and more it's becoming kind of like an indefinite thing.”

“I definitely enjoy working at where I am now,” he said. Once you're hired, “you're going to feel more comfortable.”

Ruth Koontz is an “older millennial,” having just turned 36. Koontz works in marketing and public relations and found the local job market challenging when she moved here in May 2012 to be with her new husband.

A member of the Fort Wayne Rotary, Koontz said she started the job search before relocating from Ohio but did not secure “a suitable position” until November that year.

“My efforts included reaching out to those whose job seemed to be to help attract and retain talent,” Koontz said, “but I did not receive any help.”

Many job expos are coordinated by a university or college or a specific business, but Koontz said the career expo Saturday is broader.

“This is the first year,” Koontz said, “and the hope is that it will continue and we'll be able to build on this and that we'll be able to showcase more opportunities.”

If you go

What: Career Connections Expo

When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday

Where: IPFW Athletic Center Fieldhouse

Who: Emphasis on college graduates or those just starting a career, but the event is open to anyone.

Admission: A contribution benefiting one of four charities: Associated Churches of Fort Wayne, Allen County; Girlz Rock; Camp Red Cedar; or the Humane Society of Whitley County