Hundreds turn out for Goodwill job fair in Macon

rmanley@macon.comMarch 14, 2012 

Ronald Nixon gave up his last job with UPS after a long leave of absence to care for his ailing father.

“I haven’t worked for two years,” said Nixon, whose father passed away last year. “I really need to get employed. ... It’s time to pay some bills.”

Nixon, 58, was among hundreds of applicants at the Goodwill conference center on Eisenhower Parkway where about two dozen employers were on hand and ready to hire. As job seekers hungry for work moved from booth to booth and waited in line to speak to potential employers, Nixon patiently filled out applications.

“Then I’ll pray, not hope, that someone wants to hire me,” said Nixon. “You throw enough spaghetti against the wall, some of it will stick.”

About 250 applicants were waiting to enter the facility when the fair began at 10 a.m., and almost 400 came during the fair’s first hour.

“We’ve had a bigger turnout, a much better turnout than last time,” said Vicki Mills, director of marketing and sales for Goodwill of Middle Georgia. “One of the things that we’ve asked is that all the employers please have jobs. Everybody that’s here will be hiring within the next 60 to 90 days.”

Nixon, who also has worked at two aerospace companies, worried that his age might deter employers, but he had an advantage on most of the other applicants. He came armed with résumés and was sharply dressed in a suit and tie.

“I’ve told about 50 people already that they’re not dressed for a job fair,” said Latrenda Leaks, an employment marketing rep with the Georgia Department of Labor. “You’ve got to make a lasting impression. You’ve got to have something to make you stand out.”

Leaks said numerous applicants simply were not prepared and came without résumés or the skills needed for interviews and completing applications -- all areas in which the labor office offers free assistance.

“We should have been at the front door to catch them before they came in here,” said Leaks. “Instead of talking about jobs, we’re talking to them about positive attitudes, résumés, interviews, applications, dressing for success.”

The two longest lines were at the tables for jobs with the City of Macon and Home Depot. The city’s advertised openings include police officers, firefighters, summer activity leaders, parts manager and more.

Richard Shelven, an Ohioan who now calls Macon home, waited behind about 20 people to talk to Home Depot officials.

“I’m an unemployed chef,” Shelven said. “I’ve got to get something right now. If this doesn’t work out, I might be going back to Ohio.”

Terry Woods, human resources manager for Walthall Oil, said the company had about six to 10 job openings.

“Our main focus is on our convenience stores,” he said. “We’ve got some good candidates to look at. I’d say we’ve got some fine applicants.”

At the Georgia Farm Bureau booth, employee relations manager Karen Futch directed job seekers to the company’s website, gfb.org.

“It shows all our open positions, and you can submit a résumé along with the job number,” Futch said.

Thirty-One Gifts, a Columbus, Ohio-based company, offered a different sort of opportunity. For a fee of $99, applicants can become a “team member” of the business, hosting parties to sell its handbags and other gifts, and earning 25 percent commission on all sales, said Amy Whitfield, an independent director with the company.

“I’ve talked to several women who would be good team members. It’s been good here today,” she said.

Goodwill had several booths to promote its Job Connection program and its educational opportunities. Steve Sitnick, dean of hospitality education at Goodwill’s Helms Career Institute, said most of the job fair attendees come looking for employment while he tries to steer them towards a career through training in the institute’s culinary, custodial and retail programs.

“The hospitality industry is the second-largest employer in the U.S.,” said Sitnick, wearing a chef’s hat and uniform. “Having a skill like this ... everybody’s got to eat. As tight as the economy can get, people are still going out to eat. It crosses over from luxury to necessity.”

James Card of Macon came looking for full-time work. He has a part-time job in hydraulics, mostly installing and servicing lifts at car dealerships. He’s also a skilled auto mechanic, though he noted that he’s short of completing his ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) certification.

“It’s tight right now,” said Card. “I’ve heard my mother talk about the Depression. I think it’s here.”

To contact writer Rodney Manley, call 744-4623

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