Employment News

The particular skill sought by a variety of employers

The Central Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce held its first bilingual job fair in Modesto on Tuesday, drawing 20 employers in need of people proficient in Spanish and English.

With so many businesses and nonprofits looking to hire bilingual employees, chamber leaders thought "it's about time" to hold a fair, CEO and President Christine Schweininger said as she welcomed attendees at Modesto Centre Plaza. "It's part of what we do as a chamber, help with employment," she said.

For its inaugural fair, the chamber sought to fill 20 employer tables, and did so easily, Schweininger said. She said she was pleasantly surprised to get a diverse group, including Golden Valley Health Centers, Stanislaus Food Products, the insurers State Farm and New York Life, Community Hospice, Del Monte, Nor-Cal Steel Structures and La Suavecita radio, among others.

Employers sought to hire positions ranging from insurance agents to registered nurses, welders and customer service workers. A lot of businesses continue to realize they're missing out on customers who want their products and services but speak only Spanish, Schweininger said.

Kristie Olson, human resources director for Boyett Petroleum, agreed. At its Cruisers gas stations and convenience stores, she said, there's been an uptick in customers who speak only Spanish, and consequently a need for quality customer-service representatives who can help them.

Turlock resident Maria Villapudua, attending the job fair to seek office/administrative work, is a native Spanish speaker. She said her bilingual proficiency has been a plus throughout her job history. "There's people that come in that don't know how to speak English and they don't feel comfortable in even asking a question because they think we're not gonna understand," she said, "and that's where I bring up my Spanish."

Within 20 minutes of the fair opening, between 30 and 40 attendees already had arrived, Schweininger said. The free event also offered resume critiques and a workshop on interview preparation.

At the Community Hospice table, human-resources staffer Karen Villalpando said the nonprofit organization was seeking registered nurses and home health aides, among other positions. Hospice employees make visits to patients' homes, she said, and if there's no one there who speaks English, being bilingual can be crucial, she said.

Added Lupe Perez, Community Hospice's director of volunteers, "In such a difficult time, it's really important to be able to provide support in the language they understand best."