RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – For the first time, state agencies and universities came together on Wednesday for an in-person career expo.

“The turnout has been incredible. There’s really a thirst out there for jobs and people are here wondering what the state can offer them,” said Kristin Siemek.

Siemek is the State Town Acquisition Manager with the North Carolina Office of State Human Resources. She said there are a variety of opportunities across all 100 counties in NC.

Many state agencies are actively looking for qualified candidates who are eager to work. Individuals had the opportunity to meet one-on-one with recruiters, do interviews and apply for jobs.

“We’re one big employer, so you can work for any of these agencies, get the same benefits, grow in your career, move from agency to agency, and keep your benefits and your pension,” said Siemek. “The state is experiencing the same kind of vacancies that everyone else is. We have a lot of vacancies and a lot of open jobs that we’re recruiting for. If you go to our career page, we have over 1,000 jobs statewide.”

Lindsey Humphreys, a recruiting manager for the NC Department of Health and Human Services said they currently have a 20% vacancy rate and are working to fill 4,000 positions.

“We are here to speak to North Carolinians and tell them about the job opportunities and connect with our recruiters,” said Humphreys.

Humphreys said the staff shortages have created challenges for maintaining the infrastructure of NC’s health services. She said they continue to be competitive by offering competitive wages and expanding benefits and packages including student loan forgiveness.

“We’re not seeing that there’s not enough health profession graduates coming out of the health profession school to fill the vacancies,” said Humphreys.

Daniel Hill with the North Carolina Department of Public Safety said they also continue to feel the impact of staffing shortages.

“We are still having difficulties…We still have a significant number of vacancies within all of our divisions,” said Hill.

Hill said the agency has changed a lot since the department split from the North Carolina Department of Adult Corrections. He said they continue to focus mainly on areas of law enforcement, emergency management, juvenile facilities and the National Guard.

“When you do have these shortages, it puts a lot more pressure on the staff who are there. In some cases, they are asked to pull additional weight and work extra hours…We’re doing what we can to alleviate that,” Hill said.

Hill said NCDPS currently has close to 2,000 vacancies. However, he said they see significantly high vacancy rates in their juvenile facilities.

“It’s really a population that’s vulnerable. We’re looking for those people that have that passion for working and helping kids,” said Hill.

Recruiters hope recent legislation including paid parental leave will improve recruitment. Under the new budget, the majority of state employees are also eligible for a 4% pay increase this year followed by a 3% increase next year.

Venecia Outlaw with the Department of Adult Corrections said those raises in addition to sign-on bonuses were something correctional staff were thrilled to see.

“The correctional officers are the ones who are on the floors, they are the ones who are working every day, if they’re not working 12 hours, they’re working 16 hours. They deserve it,” said Outlaw.

Outlaw added their main goal is to get people in and offer them a career. The state agency also provides training.

As a woman working at Central Prison, she said she’s found the job to be very rewarding to many people’s surprises. She said the State of North Carolina Career Expo had an overwhelming turnout and is hopeful the majority of vacancies within the department will be filled by the end of next year.

A list of career opportunities can be found at www.nc.gov/jobs.