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Jobs expo targets hard hit Uintah Basin with opportunity along Wasatch Front

By Jasen Lee | Posted - Jun. 19, 2016 at 10:47 a.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — Uintah Basin counties are partnering in a job fair to address the high jobless rate affecting the area in the wake of the most recent energy market decline.

The Ignite Rural Employment Expo will take place Tuesday in Vernal, where business owners, executives and managers from companies along the Wasatch Front will focus on opportunities in rural Utah. It's a bus tour bringing those ready to hire to those needing jobs.

While the unemployment rate on the Wasatch Front is under 4 percent, the Uintah Basin has experienced unemployment over 11 percent because of the downturn in the global energy market.

The goal of the one-day job expo is to find 10 companies to hire 10 candidates within the four counties hardest hit by the energy bust, said Joel Smith, chief executive officer for Accelerant BSP — a Salt Lake City-based company that provides business solutions.

"If we can bring out some members of the business community and have an assemblage of talent that resides in the basin, then we could have a dialogue about what the possibilities could be for having a virtual employment center with personnel that could be working and living in the basin — three hours away from the Wasatch Front," he said.

Because the jobless rate is so low along the Wasatch Front, employers often struggle to meet the demand of qualified talent, he said. This event could represent a long-term solution that could benefit both employers and potential employees who are eager to find good jobs, he said.

"Utah has hard-working, educated and skilled people available now," Smith said. The job expo will be held from noon to 2:30 p.m. at the Utah State University extension located on 320 N. Aggie Blvd. in Vernal.

Hosted in conjunction with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, the event is the first of what could become a sustained effort, Accelerant President Dean Lundberg said.

"When oil and gas prices took a 'nose dive,' it affected so much of our employment," said Uintah County commissioner Mike McKee. "We've lost several thousand jobs in the Uintah Basin. People are hurting."

He said events like the expo could be the catalyst that helps to diversify the area's economy and provide jobs to people who need them.

"With the Uintah Basin Applied Technology College, we have the ability to train and retrain (workers) to whatever is needed," he said. "What we really need is to be able to have the jobs in order to do (the training)."

The four counties targeted in the program thus far are Uintah, Duchesne, Carbon and Emery, Smith said. If successful, the program could eventually be expanded, he added.

"This could be a great opportunity for people here in the basin," McKee said.

Jasen Lee

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