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More than 800 at Spring Job and Career Fair

Job seekers say it's a rough time to be looking for work

April 09, 2010|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN -- Some were recent graduates looking for their first real jobs; others had been unemployed for months after being laid off from long careers.

Yet the more than 800 people shaking hands, collecting business cards and filling out resumes at Friday's Spring Job and Career Fair at Hagerstown Community College could agree on one thing: It's a rough time to be a job seeker.

With Washington County's unemployment rate nearing 12 percent as of February, the annual job and career fair -- hosted by HCC, The Herald-Mail and the Washington County One-Stop Job Center -- attracted 805 job seekers, HCC workplace learning adviser Bonnie A. Owens said.

Attendance was up from last spring's fair, which attracted about 600 people, she said.

The job fair, held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Athletic, Recreation and Community Center included booths for 37 employers as well as for educational opportunities, Herald-Mail Advertising Sales Manager Heather Guessford said.

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The heavy attendance by job seekers was intimidating for Megan Biser, 22, of Middletown, Md., who graduated from Towson University in January.

"It's very scary seeing all these people here," she said, looking around the crowded ARCC gymnasium.

Biser, who studied accounting and economics, said she was looking for a business job that would put her on track for a career related to securities and bonds. She said she was glad she went to the job fair because there seemed to be opportunities available there that she would not have heard about otherwise.

"There's a lot of jobs out there that aren't just hanging out on Monster," she said, referring to the jobs Web site monster.com.

William Cox, 43, of Martinsburg, said he would have liked to see more employers at a major job fair.

"I expected it would take me longer than five minutes to walk around the loop," he said.

Many of the job seekers said they hoped Friday's fair would end long months of unsuccessful searching.

"I've put in applications all over the place, and no luck," said Pandora Collins, 52, who has been looking for a clerical job since January.

Collins said the job fair gave her leads for several companies to contact, but she was not sure if any of them would have the type of position she was seeking.

"It's a shot in the dark," she said.

Cindy Lucas, 52, of Funkstown, estimated she had put in about 120 applications since losing her job at an assisted-living facility eight months ago.

"It's really hard trying to find work," she said.

Betty Frazee, 61, of Hagerstown, said she had been sending out resumes for about a year since her job cut back her hours to four days a month.

She receives unemployment, but has only two weeks left before that runs out.

"Now, the pressure is really building," she said.

After talking to recruiters at the job fair, Frazee decided to seek work as a collector for a credit card company, one job she thought might be in high demand in a poor economy. She said her background in criminology and working for the U.S. Census Bureau would be a good fit for that type of work.

Compared to some of the job seekers, Ken Jaye, 53, of Smithsburg was in a relatively good position to begin a job search, having almost finished a phlebotomy program at HCC.

"The reason I went into health care is because there are opportunities," Jaye said.

However, even in health care, competition for jobs can be tough, Jaye said. He said he was prepared to commute to Frederick for a job if necessary.

Debbie Haimes, 46, of Martinsburg, W.Va., also hoped her recent schooling would give her a leg up in the job market. After being laid off from AB&C Group two years ago, Haimes returned to school to study office technology with a medical specialization.

Throughout her schooling, Haimes said she had been looking for jobs.

"Nobody calls," she said. "If I could just get an interview, I think it would be good."

Haimes said she thought a jobs bill passed last month offering tax breaks to employers for hiring new workers might help her chances.

Others found their schooling less helpful in their job search.

Michael Schubel, 21, of Williamsport, said he had been struggling to find steady work since graduating from college last spring with a bachelor's degree in history. Schubel said he wanted to teach at the college level, but needed to pay off loans and save up to go to graduate school before that career track would be in reach.

Meanwhile, he said, all that seems to be available is temporary restaurant jobs and phyically demanding work he can't do because pins in his foot prevent him from standing for long periods.

"I'm stuck in this limbo," he said.

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