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Job fair draws hundreds
Interviews on the spot
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Above, job seekers meet employers Wednesday at Hooker Field in Martinsville. The job fair was held before the Martinsville Mustangs played the Asheboro Copperheads, shown preparing for the game in the background. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
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Thursday, July 24, 2014

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Despite temperatures in the 90s and threatening rain clouds all around, 350 to 400 job seekers attended a unique job fair Wednesday at Hooker Field.

It was unique because of the informal atmosphere and because job seekers who filled out paperwork were admitted free to the Martinsville Mustangs game with the Asheboro Copperheads after the job fair. Dress was casual.

Representatives from about 30 companies and agencies were on hand, and there were about 500 job openings, said Amanda Witt, president of the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce. The chamber partnered with the Martinsville Mustangs to put on the job fair.

“I saw some interviews on the spot,” Witt said.

She added that representatives from Virginia Mirror offered jobs to about five people, starting with the second shift today if their paperwork and screenings go well.

“That’s real success,” Witt said.

The chamber will be following up over the next few weeks to help meet the needs of employers and compile more statistics relating to the job fair, Witt said.

“At the end of the day, we’re trying to meet employers’ needs and put people back to work. It’s a win-win,” she said.

Overall, she heard good comments about the venue, the relaxed atmosphere, some job seekers having good skill sets to meet employer needs, and job seekers who filled out the paperwork getting to stay for the ballgame, she said.

The event lasted about 21?2 hours, she added.

Jesse Cole, president of the Martinsville Mustangs, was wearing his signature yellow suit, yellow ruffled shirt and yellow top hat as he walked around, talking with employers and job seekers.

“It’s been great,” he said of the job fair.

There was a big line of people when the event began, Cole said.

“All the employers are very, very happy,” he added.

He looks forward to having the event again next year and believes it will grow.

The second year the Gastonia Grizzlies held a similar job fair, the number of employers and job seekers doubled, Cole said. He is managing partner of that organization, according to its website.

Louis Chism, 34, of Martinsville said he was seeking a job in production or sales. He currently has a temporary job.

“I’m hoping to get a better paying job or one that better fits my schedule,” he said. He eventually wants to advance into management.

Chism liked the informal atmosphere at the job fair, which he felt took some of the pressure off job seekers.

Sometimes at formal job interviews, he said, “You feel like you’re in jail. You feel like you just said the wrong thing, and why are they looking at me like that?”

But at the job fair at Hooker Field, company representatives seemed “like they were more open” and more informal, he said.

As Chism talked, Mustangs players practiced on the field and pop music played on the stadium’s PA system.

Donnie Richardson of Martinsville said he was seeking a job running heavy equipment or in production. He has been out of work about three weeks from his last job in Rocky Mount as a truck driver, he said.

“I just want a decent paying job where I don’t have to drive out of town ...,” he said.

Willie Turner, 55, of Martinsville said he was seeking a sales job.

Securing a job through the job fair would mean so much to him, he said. “I have a son in college at George Mason and two little girls to provide for” and other bills, including rent and utilities, he said.

Turner called the job fair “an awesome opportunity. It gets people out and involved. It lets them know somebody cares.”

Justina Gilliam, 21, of Martinsville, said she was seeking a child support services position. She moved to this area from Hampton a couple months ago and is not working. She aspires to eventually become an attorney to help young people, she said.

As for the unique approach of the job fair, Gilliam said, “It’s looking for a job and having fun at the same time.”

Dena Reynolds, human resources manager for Lowe’s Home Improvement in Martinsville, was on hand representing several Lowe’s stores in the region.

She felt the unique job fair was “bringing in more prospects this way rather than going through another route.” Close to 50 job seekers registered at her table in about the first 45 minutes of the job fair.

A few minutes after that, Doug Lawrie, project manager for Blythe Development, said he had seen about 20 job seekers so far, a couple of whom were good prospects for construction?heavy equipment operator positions available. He conducted some informal interviews, he added.

Blythe Construction is hiring workers to help develop Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre.

The company currently has about 20 local employees and will be hiring 40 to 45 more over the next couple of months, he said. The company conducts interviews at 8 a.m. every Tuesday and Thursday at 129 Reservoir Road, Ridgeway, and will hire on the spot, he said.


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