People of Color Career Fair connects companies to diverse workers

The sharp suit and pressed business shirt signals Abdirahman Ali means business. The dress sneakers indicate he’s ready to run to meet any recruiter who is willing give him a shot at joining their IT team.

"I’m looking for a software engineering role right now," said Ali who has a computer science degree from the University of Minnesota and is simply looking to meet recruiters face to face. "I’ve been to a lot of career fairs, usually I’m always nervous. I’m a bit on the shy side, but here I feel right at home."

That is the entire design of the People of Color Career Fair. It’s meant to give the BIPOC community the chance to have direct access to some of the Twin Cities’ major employers.

"When you know that this is an event that is specifically tailored for you culturally, it does make it easier because people of color don’t always have the access to top decision makers that can help them move their careers forward," said Sharon Smith-Akinsanya, the creative and driving force behind the People of Color Career Fair.

This spring’s fair featured 40 employers across a number of business categories. In the food sector, General Mills and Hormel Foods were talking directly with applicants. In the health care sector, Children’s Minnesota along with North Memorial Health and Allina Heath participated in the event. Target and Toro were here, too. U-S Bank was one of the three premier sponsors along with Anderson Windows & Doors, and Midco. Major sponsors included Ameriprise Financial, RBC Wealth Management, and Best Buy. 

All the sponsors had recruiters at the event talking with applicants.

"They have made the decision to say, listen, in order for us to maintain our competitive edge in this region, we absolutely must diversify our workforce at all levels of the corporate structure, all the way to the C-suite," said Smith-Akinsanya.

Essentially, this event is about matchmaking. In an era where the vast majority of recruiting is done online and many interviews conducted via Zoom, the value of this career fair is for applicants to meet one-on-one with recruiters.

"I gave them my resume, reconnected with them, and hopefully I get the ball rolling and bring this home in the next couple of weeks," said Ali.

Even as new economic data shows the national economy is starting to slow down, Minnesota companies are still looking for workers. And Smith-Akinsanya says this career fair shows they are willing to make meaningful connections with workers who can help them not just with their hiring goals, but drive their businesses.

"When you’re a professional of color knowing that employers are looking for you, it’s just more comfortable. And that’s why I love this event," said Smith-Akinsanya.

Ali was impressed, too. He talked with several recruiters including making a strong connection with United Healthcare. "It’s an amazing opportunity and the people, you’ll meet, you’ll never know where it takes you," said Ali.