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Job seekers wait hours for hiring fair

By Tiffany Lane, The Enquirer-Journal
Apr 24, 2009

E-J staff photo by Ed Cottingham

Sean Oshields talks with Linda Reed a branch manager at The Reserves Network during a career fair at SPCC

MONROE--Pushing a stroller with his 7-month-old son inside, Chris Richardson said he's been out of work since November. He and his wife, Brandy Richardson, were only two of dozens of hopefuls at the Union County career fair on Thursday, dressed to the nines, standing in a line that stretched from the front door of South Piedmont Community College to Monroe Road.

"I have mixed feelings," Chris Richardson said. "I'm not the oldest person here. I don't have the most experience, ... but I'd like a chance." Squinting from the sun in his eyes, he stood several feet away from the main entrance, waiting for the doors to open. Chris Richardson was laid off from a construction job last fall and is looking for a field that is weathering the economic downturn.

"Anything with a consistent paycheck, because he needs to eat," he said, nodding toward his son.

His wife said she wasn't planning to go back to work so soon, but could use the extra income if she can find a job with flexible hours. If a job doesn't turn up soon, she said she'd like to finish her bachelor's degree and go on to graduate school. Furthering her education seems to be the best option in the absence of a job, she said.

At the front of the line, two men said they had been waiting for an hour and a half.

Charles Keys works part-time for UPS, but hopes to take on a machining job. Keys recently took career readiness classes at SPCC and said he felt confident that he would find something of interest once inside the career fair.

"I think it helps with connections," said Paul Taylor, who stood only one spot ahead of Keys. "Definitely networking, getting your name out there." Taylor moved to the area from Ohio in December, but a job he had hopes for didn't work out. Carrying a folder of resumes, Taylor said he hoped to find a job in accounting or finance.

Once inside, people of all ages surveyed nearly 60 booths, some advertising open positions, others offering job training or workshops to help in the search process. Ten minutes later, several job seekers had already taken a seat at one of the application tables.

Marsha Redfern said she wants to find something in her field, "but if not, then I'll take anything." Redfern, who lost her job at a day care four months ago, said the number of applicants was a little intimidating, but that she was keeping a positive attitude. "I just feel like I have a chance just as much as they do," she said.

Redfern's sister, Vickie Elliott, echoed the same, saying she'd love to find a customer service job, but would settle for anything she can find.

At job fair, an emphasis on readiness
Few hiring, most hoping to train future employees

By Tiffany Lane, The Enquirer-Journal

Nearly five dozen employers, agencies and institutions participated in Thursday's career fair, some looking to hire, others for students and a few to help attendees in their job hunt.

Amy Hancock, a nursing supervisor for Neighborhood Nurses, said the company has more than 100 people providing in-home care at any given time and could fill about 30 of those positions. Pointing to a stack of yellow slips, she said people could fill one out and someone would follow up with them.

A few booths down, senior consultant Jennifer Graham promoted Mary Kay make-up products. She said there aren't many Mary Kay representatives in the Monroe area and it's a good option for women looking for full-time work or extra cash on the side. "People here are actually looking for work instead of just a hobby," she said, adding that the company could always use "a strong self-starter."

Brittany Kennard's selling point was flexible hours and a field ? cosmetology ? that she said will continue to survive the plunging economy.

"Our field is not really affected by the recession," said Kennard, a representative for Regina's College of Beauty. "For one, people always want to look good. Even if you discount your prices, you're still going to make money." Like several other booths, the college was not hiring, but attracted those looking to go back to school.

"It seems like especially nowadays when jobs are so hard to come by, education is even more important," said Trent Brown, business development manager for the NASCAR Technical Institute in Mooresville. "These career fairs tend to be career changers."

He said schools like his can be a step in the right direction, pulling people with similar interests into the automotive and motor sports industry through in-depth training.

Assistant Fire Marshal Robert Bolick with the Monroe Fire Department said the department wasn't hiring, but could be in the near future if the city adds fire stations. For the time being, he said, the focus is on drawing people in for training.

JobReady job broker Linda Smith pointed out that children of job seekers should also be considered. "Even though there are people who are looking for jobs themselves, they have families and they have children ... who are in high school who are also going to be future job searchers," she said. JobReady is a nonprofit partnership between Union County businesses and Union County Public Schools that provides school-to-work training for students.

JobReady partner Kim Hayward, career development coordinator for UCPS, said JobReady wants to keep trainees in the county. "The reason we're here is to provide opportunities for Union County students to attend a Union County college and to be employed in the Union County business community."

? 2009 by The Enquirer Journal. All rights reserved.