Speed-dating for job hunters

Career fair fields applicants for 600-plus vacancies

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Shameeka Archer has held a part-time position for nearly two years. She hasn’t been able to find full-time employment, she said.

But she hopes that will change after attending the 18th annual Greater Wilson Area Career Fair on Wednesday.

“I need something to advance further,” Archer said.

Archer, of Wilson, spent most of Wednesday morning talking with company representatives and handing out her resume. It was her first time attending this particular job fair.

“It’s a good opportunity,” she said. “There are a lot of people who really need a job. I thank God for these people reaching out.”

Archer was one of more than 200 who headed out Wednesday to connect with hiring employers. The job fair, hosted by the Greater Wilson Area Career Fair Committee, was held at the county’s agricultural center. The committee is made up of various agency partners including NCWorks, the Wilson County Department of Social Services and Wilson Community College.

More than 40 employers from Wilson and beyond were a part of the event and were hiring for a combined total of more than 600 open positions.

“There is something for everyone,” said Howard Handorf, DSS team leader for Career Plus. Job openings included everything from professional to technology-based positions as well as industrial, service and law enforcement fields.

“Last year, people were hired on the spot,” Handorf said, adding there was one employer there on Wednesday who wanted to conduct interviews right after the fair.

Officials said the fair uses a pre-qualification process to ensure job seekers have the minimum qualifications including a Career Readiness Certificate, high school diploma or GED, certification through an employment readiness program, positive attitude, long-term job experience, a college diploma or certification.

Job-seekers received a ticket to participate in the fair after bring pre-qualified by a community partner. And more than 500 tickets were given out through DSS, Diversified Opportunities, Vocational Rehabilitation, the Opportunities Industrialization Center, NCWorks, Barton College and Wilson Community College, officials said.

Handorf said those partners prepare job-seekers prior to the event.

This year’s job fair saw an increase in employers, which shows the Wilson job market is expanding.

“Employers are looking for quality employees,” Handorf said. “We are seeing an economic upswing.”

Burwell Stark, NCWorks Career Center manager, said Wilson’s unemployment rate tends to run higher than most of the state. He said the more job fairs local agencies can hold, the more hiring they can do and the lower Wilson County’s jobless rate will go.

“As well as move those underemployed to full-time employment,” he added.

Several years ago, employers reported difficulty finding qualified job-seekers to fill vacant positions. That’s when officials decided to begin the Ticket to Work pre-qualification process.

Officials said the concept matches qualified job seekers to employers who have open positions that need to be filled.

“It’s a controlled environment and they are prepared to be here,” Handorf said. Officials also had an area for those who weren’t registered Wednesday as well.

Officials begin planning for the big event in October to make it all happen.

“Our partners really pull together to provide the resources,” Handorf said.

DSS Director Glenn Osborne said the job fair is a good example of how agencies, businesses and an array of employers come together.

“We are real proud of the fact that it’s an opportunity for our citizens to come in and apply for jobs and hopefully be hired,” he said.