More than 250 attend job fair in Hagerstown

Citigroup, FedEx Ground, Sears and Volvo were among the 15 employers and staffing agencies there

August 25, 2011|By DON AINES |
  • A long line of prospective job applicants was in front of Volvo Powertrain Thursday at a job fair at the Washington County One Stop Job Center in Hagerstown.
By Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

More than 250 people descended on the Washington County One Stop Job Center in Hagerstown Thursday to fill out applications and drop off resumes, trying to match their skills to the needs of prospective employers.

"The turnout has been incredible so far .... We saw 56 people in the first hour," said Becky Dice of Aerotek.

Many of those people also had the skills the staffing firm was looking for in warehousing, commercial services and professional services, Dice said.

Machine and forklift operators and call-center representatives were among the positions Aerotek was looking to fill, she said.

"Something professional. Office management," said Patricia Lawson of Hagerstown when asked what type of work she wanted. Lawson said she has been looking for work for about a month after her last position as manager of a fast-food restaurant.

The June unemployment report for Washington County showed the jobless rate was 10 percent, with the number of people seeking work nearing 6,800, according to the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

Citigroup, FedEx Ground, Sears and Volvo were among the 15 employers and staffing agencies at the fair. Some companies and agencies were looking for people with specific skills. For others, the type of person was more important than their skills.

"We're looking for people that have a positive attitude and a good work ethic," said Thomas Varney, a field trainer for Bankers Life and Casualty Co. "We're looking for agent positions .... We're looking to give people careers."

Varney said Bankers Life is recruiting and training people to work in the Hagerstown area and an office that will be opening later this year in Winchester, Va. Agents would essentially be self-employed once they complete training to sell Bankers' products to customers.

Electricians, laborers, package handlers, nurses and medical technicians were among the positions Marketing Manager David Ranck of Choice Staffing Inc. needed to fill.

"We can use as many of those as we can possibly get," Ranck said of the medical professionals.

There are skilled positions to fill, but finding people with those skills is often a challenge, Ranck said. Even for relatively unskilled labor, companies are being more selective, he said.

"There's very few jobs now where, in my opinion, we can pull anyone off the street and put them to work," Ranck said.

It is not too early for employers to be thinking about the holiday-shopping season, said David Lakner, the Hagerstown branch manager for Staffmark.

"The 'golden quarter' is what a lot of companies call that," Lakner said, referring to the last three months of the year. Warehouse workers, forklift operators and assemblers are some of the positions his company is trying to fill for clients.

Many of those jobs will pay $9 to $11 an hour, Lakner said.

"People say the economy is bad, but we're busy," Lakner said.

With companies reluctant to hire permanent employees in a shaky economy, they turn to staffing agencies to fill short-term labor needs, in addition to recruiting new workers, he said.

Paul Taylor of Hagerstown is a welder, but he has been out of work for about a month and is willing to take other jobs.

"I busted my butt trying to keep that job," Taylor said of the position he recently lost. "It's frustrating."

The center will be hosting another job fair in a few weeks, tentatively scheduled for Sept. 22, Job Center Supervisor Cinda Quail said.

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