Job seekers from around the city attended a job fair at the Elmcor Recreation Center in Corona on Thursday. The fair, sponsored by state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-Jackson Heights) and Elmcor, a Queens organization that focus on providing youth and adult services to those in need, had over 60 employers and career services groups on hand.
Queens, not immune to the drop in jobs that has affected nearly every part of the country, has thousands of unemployed, and over 1,400 came to the fair to drop off resumes and speak with employers.
“I’ve been out of work for nearly two years,” said 40-year-old mother of two Diana Thompson. “I have skills and experience, and hopefully one of the people I met today will give me a chance.”
According to the state Labor Department, the trade, transportation and utilities industries made up 31 percent of the Queens County workforce on the fourth quarter of 2010. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Time Warner Cable, Con Edison, the United States Postal Service, Steamfitters Local 638 and Plumbers Local 1 all had tables at the fair.
“I came all the way from Staten Island because I need to work,” said one job seeker, Andre Rodriguez. “I went to trade school and have a number of skills to offer any company that is looking for a hard-worker with a positive attitude.”
Educational and health services accounted for 26 percent of fourth quarter jobs in Queens, and a number of different employers in that area were also taking resumes at the fair, including AARP, Juno Healthcare Staffing and Tri-County Home Nursing Services.
“I just moved to Bayside after working as a CNA in Pittsburgh for 10 years,” said fair attendee Mary Kline. “I didn’t think finding a job in nursing would be this difficult, so that’s why I came to the job fair.”
While some employers were reluctant to talk about the candidates they had spoken to, representatives from Coca-Cola, which is hiring salespeople, were more than happy to share their thoughts.
District sales manager Mike Baker was impressed with some of the people he spoke to and said he is sure a number of them would be given interviews. He said the sales positions have a salary based on experience but are no lower than $40,000 to start.
Despite the overall economic climate and seemingly infinite lack of faith in the real estate market, ERA Top Service Realty, which sells and rents homes in Queens, was looking for agents. But Melissa Gomez, the company’s vice president of operations, said that a few of the people she spoke with at the beginning of the fair “weren’t ready.”
“Some of the job seekers weren’t fully prepared,” she said. “They either didn’t have a resume or they weren’t dressed professionally. It’s hard to find a job when that’s how you present yourself.”
When the day was done, however, Gomez had collected more than 100 resumes and was planning on contacting at least 75 of the interested applicants.
“There were definitely some people that looked like they had potential,” she said.
No matter how one presented oneself at the fair, there were plenty of opportunities to speak with potential employers. A Labor Department pie chart shows that among the growing employers in Queens are the department stores, and with the holidays coming up, there were a number of them at the job fair, including Kohl’s, Macy’s and JC Penney.
Susan McKenzie, store engagement supervisor for JC Penney in the Queens Center mall in Elmhurst, said the retailer is looking for at least 160 employees to work from October to Dec. 31, with the possibility of advancement. One of the good things about JC Penney, she said, is the quick application and hiring process.
Those who left their resumes with her at the job fair should be contacted and then interviewed with the week, she said.
This was second job fair presented by Elmcor and the first sponsored by Peralta. Charlotte James, Elmcor’s employment and training coordinator, said she hopes that this year’s event is just as successful as last year’s.
Peralta knows how important it is for Americans to be gainfully employed and said he’s working on some long-term development projects that will help create jobs, but the need is immediate.
“There is not a more important issue than the state of the economy and the large number of unemployed and underemployed,” Peralta said. “There are just too many people who literally cannot afford to wait for things to get better. They need a job now.”
As much as organizers were pleased with the turn-out, others were less than thrilled to see that many people looking for work.
“This is the United States of America, the richest and most powerful country in the world,” said Barry Lucy of East Elmhurst, looking for work in hospitality. “There shouldn’t be this many Americans searching for a job.”