GALVESTON — Brandon Eubanks isn’t quite finished with his studies at ITT Technical Institute but knows if he wants to land a good-paying job when he graduates, it doesn’t hurt to get a foot in the workforce door.
That’s why the 25-year-old League City resident and his friend Steven Walsh, 26, of Webster were stopping by every booth at last week’s Oceans of Opportunity Job Fair. The two were looking for internships in the information technology fields.
They have at least 7,000 reasons to do so. That is how many new jobs in information technology were created in Texas in the past year, making it one of the fastest growing segments of the workforce.
So as the friends walked by the NASA-Johnson Space Center booth at the job fair in Galveston, they noticed a call for interns to work on the space program.
“We have a couple of professors who work for NASA who told us to try and get our foot in the door there and that this would be a good place to look for an internship,” Eubanks said. “Mainly (I’m here) looking to try and get a job to get IT experience.”
And it’s a good time to be looking for a new job.
The latest state employment figures show that more than 322,000 jobs were added in Texas in the past year.
Most came in the trade, transportation and utilities fields where 77,000 jobs were created between January 2013 and January 2014, according to figures from Texas Workforce Commission.
The oil and gas industry added another 15,800 jobs in the past year, according to January figures, the most recent numbers.
All those new jobs helped push the state’s unemployment figures to 5.7 percent, the lowest it has been since November 2008, according to the commission’s figures.
That bodes well for James Patterson of Texas Worksource, the state agency charged with connecting employers with potential employees. It also is why the Oceans of Opportunity job fair was bigger this year than in years past.
More than 100 employers signed up to participate and more than 500 job-seekers came out with résumés in hand at the Galveston Island Convention Center at The San Luis Resort.
“I wanted to make this more of a countywide thing, so I reached out to companies further north (including Houston),” Patterson said. “I am trying to make this more of a regional thing. We decided to make this bigger, to bring in different companies.”
The Oceans of Opportunity job fair was started soon after Hurricane Ike struck. Now that the economy has recovered and in many places is expanding, the job fair has changed focus.
“Really (the job market) is very good,” Patterson said. “It’s cooled a little bit compared to previous years, but we were on fire then. With all the building (within the regional petrochemical facilities), to be honest there is more of a skill gap than a shortage of jobs.”
That’s why the job fair teamed with the county’s two community colleges, Galveston College and College of the Mainland, Patterson said, to be able to better prepare the next group of workers.
“We have order writers for (Texas Worksource) who are putting the jobs out there, and they just can’t keep up,” he said. “A part of the problem is as these facilities and buildings go up, you need jobs that require certifications. So (workers) need to go to the community colleges to get that training.”