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Okotoks job fair draws record crowd as desperation rises

With oil and gas layoffs continuing almost daily, hundreds showed up to an Okotoks job fair looking for something — anything — as desperation starts to mount.

It doesn't matter that you’re overqualified, says certified accountant

Thirty employers greeted hundreds of applicants Thursday at a job fair in Okotoks. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

With oil and gas layoffs continuing almost daily, hundreds showed up to an Okotoks job fair looking for something — anything — as desperation starts to mount.

Some are saying competition has become intense.

There was a lineup to get in to check out jobs ranging from the Canadian Navy to social services to retail.

Among those checking out options is certified accountant Arnold van Loozenoord.

Arnold van Loozenoord says 'If the wage is fine, I don't care what I'm doing.' (Dave Gilson/CBC)

He's one of thousands of highly-educated professionals looking for work after losing their jobs in the energy sector.

"You're in a position that it doesn't matter than you're overqualified," van Loozenoord told CBC News.

"You simply need the job. So if the wage is fine, I don't care what I'm doing."

Okotoks resident Luanne Anderson lost her job with a hydrovac company late last year after business started to slow down.

She says she's looking for work and taking courses.

"I'm trying to open my options up a little bit so that I have more that I can apply for," Anderson explained.

Brian de Bruin from the D'Arcy Ranch Golf Club says they're seeing a wide range of ages and experience among the applicants.

Brian de Bruin from the D'Arcy Ranch Golf Club says teenagers are facing stiff competition for seasonal jobs this year. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

He says teenagers are facing stiff competition for the seasonal jobs this year.

"They're competing against people who have a ton of experience and are willing to work for the same pay just to get their foot in the doors," de Bruin said.

Job fair organizer Amber Chapman says in the seven years the fair has run, she has never seen it this busy.

"We have seen a greater impact, you know, a lot of people who have maybe been in long-term positions, whether they're oil and gas or other sectors that are related to oil and gas are now faced with unemployment so they are now having to take a look at, 'What are my skills?' so that's what we're doing," Chapman said.

"We're taking a look at their resume, taking a look at what they have for skills and we're looking at how they're going to transfer into other careers."

A job fair in Okotoks Thursday attracted hundreds of people. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

Okotoks Economic Development has also noticed a rise in the number of residents who are starting home businesses or opening stores in the town.

The organization says some of that can be directly linked to layoffs in the oil patch.

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