ORONO,  Maine — Hundreds of students filed through the University of Maine’s fitness and recreation center Wednesday for the school’s annual career fair, according to event officials.
The event, held every year in January by the UM Career Center, attracted 87 different companies and organizations. Most company representatives traveled from around the state and New England, giving students an opportunity to make a connection with a potential employer or even a chance to land a full-time job.
“This is a chance for students to get in front of employers,” said Cathryn Marquez, the assistant director at the Career Center who was also serving as a liaison between students and employers on Wednesday. “Here they can get face-to-face contact, rather than being just another resume in the human resources in-box.”
The Student Recreation and Fitness Center, which was chosen to house the event for its space, was bustling throughout the day as students pitched their skills and took the opportunity to chat with a wide array of companies and organizations representing a number of sectors ranging from engineering firms to health care service providers.
Marcus Desjardins, 23, a business management major at UM who is set to graduate next December, was searching for jobs in the government sector and was concerned about finding work close to home.
“I’d like to find work in the local economy,” said Desjardins, who lives in Bangor. “I grew up here, and though I’m not opposed to leaving the state, it can be uprooting and costly to go elsewhere.”
Many students interviewed from the class of 2011 on Wednesday said they were optimistic about the economy but, like Desjardins, reluctantly acknowledged that they may have to leave Maine in order to find full-time employment.
“I’m an engineering major, and it seems inevitable that I’ll have to move out of state to find a good job,” said Jared Hayes, 21, a fourth-year student from Dover-Foxcroft and a member of the class of 2011.
Many of the companies at the career fair had global connections in addition to some headquartered throughout New England. But the majority of employers were from Maine, and they disagreed with Hayes’ and Desjardins’ concerns.
“We’re here right now, and many of us are hiring. I know my company is,” said Natalie Brown, a recruiter with Athena Health Services. It’s a company that provides front-end administrative services in physicians’ offices across the country, but was hiring for positions in Portland and Bangor.
Eventually, both Desjardins and Hayes had an opportunity to speak with two Maine companies. Desjardins spoke with a representative from The Jackson Laboratory of Bar Harbor, which was searching for business majors to fill multiple positions. And Hayes took time out to speak with Stephen Pierce of TRC Solutions, an engineering firm with offices in Maine and along the East Coast.
“There is certainly plenty of engineering work in Maine, there is no doubt — most infrastructure-based,” Pierce told Hayes. “This means that the industry — along with the rest of the economy — is experiencing a sustained period of steady growth.”
Marquez said another new trend is students opting for either internships or graduate programs after they finish a 4-year degree.
“The economy is in transition right now, and many of the employers present today are getting stronger from what I’m told,” she said. “They want to give new hires a test drive before they give them the real deal, but everyone is optimistic because they’re here and that’s the first step.”