Mingled among the shoppers Friday at Valley Mall were representatives from more than 50 employers trying to match people to the positions they need to fill.
Some employers required certifications or degrees to fill skilled positions, and others were looking for people with the willingness to be trained.
While the jobless rate is little improved from one year ago, there were more than twice as many companies and institutions at the Fall Job Fair, which was sponsored by the mall, The Herald-Mail Co., Washington County Job Center and Hagerstown Community College.
The U.S. Labor Department announced Friday that the national unemployment rate remained at 9.1 percent. In Washington County, the rate was at about 9.8 percent in August, the most recent month for which figures are available.
"I guess the challenge on our part is that the skill element is not there," said Josef Ott, vice president of Rampf Molds Industries Inc. "You find a lot of people, but they don't have the skills you need."
Though the company, which manufactures molds used to make pavers and landscaping blocks, has been hurt by the recession, Ott said Rampf needs workers with specialized skills and had openings for a computer numerical control operator, a metal inert gas welder and a flame cut operator.
Business is very good at JLG Industries, but there still are openings for plant and office workers, said Mary V. Jodon, a recruiter for the largest employer in Fulton County, Pa. Human Resources Recruiter Renee Britton said positions include engineers and production supervisors.
At the corporate office in Hagerstown, there are opportunities in financing and marketing, Jodon said.
Just about anything that involves paving or concrete work is going to involve the use of aggregates — crushed rock — and Mellott Co. in Warfordsburg, Pa., has been doing it for decades, along with selling and servicing equipment and other aspects of the industry, Human Resources Manager Jeffrey Rowland said.
The company had openings for welders and service technicians, but "it's been somewhat of a struggle" finding qualified people, Rowland said.
FedEx Freight needs tractor-trailer drivers and forklift operators, Service Center Manager Martin Gorman said. For those who can pass the Class A driver's written exam, FedEx has an apprentice driver program.
Working on the loading docks while training to become a tractor-trailer driver, a person can earn good wages and advance to driver within a period of a few months to a year, Gorman said.
"If an 18-year-old has the fire and the gumption to do it, we'd do it," Hancock Hardee's General Manager Ernie Faust said when asked if there were management opportunities for young adults.
"We're constantly hiring" for the chain's restaurants in the region, he said.
Not everyone attending the fair was unemployed.
Teri Forrest of Hagerstown was on unemployment, but was able to find a job outside of the area. On Friday, she was looking for a better job.
Daughter Kelsey Davis was with her.
"I have retail experience ... but there's not many places that want an 18-year-old right out of high school," she said.
"Most of the employers here are looking for a certification or at least an associate degree," said Kevin Crawford, recruitment coordinator at Hagerstown Community College. The college offers the training and educational financial assistance many of the people at the job fair need, he said.
"Three out of four of our students receive financial aid," Crawford said. The cost of an education should be put in perspective, he said.
"You don't pay for going to college. You pay down the road for not going," Crawford said.