Local News

December 6, 2012

Area residents pack job fair

Kristi Hankins came to the trade center Wednesday looking to fill more than 150 entry-level jobs at Beaulieu of America.

“We have seen some very good candidates,” said Hankins, Beaulieu’s director of training and development. “We’ve been taking résumés and encouraging them to apply online. I’m hopeful we can fill all those positions today.”

Beaulieu joined more than 80 employers with jobs to fill from across the state at the Dalton Career Expo, sponsored by the Georgia Department of Labor.

“This is the final step in a project that we are piloting here in the Dalton area,” State Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said. “About a month or so ago, we were up here for three days with a job readiness fair. We asked people who were having trouble finding a job to come in, and we helped them work on their interview skills, polish their résumés and learn how to market themselves to employers.”

Those who took part in that job readiness fair were admitted to the career expo Wednesday at noon. Those who didn’t take part were not admitted until 1 p.m.

“That was the bonus for taking part in that program,” Butler said. “They got first shot at those jobs.”

Tracy Farriba, a registered nurse with Gordon Hospital, said that facility has several positions it is trying to fill.

“It takes so much to make the hospital work. We have front and back office positions. We are definitely looking for nurses. At any time, positions are coming open, and we know there are people in this area that have the expertise to fill them,” she said.

Roger Skelton, director of human resources with Tandus Group, said that company is looking to fill two positions: a mechanical engineer and a tufting mechanic. He said at about 1 p.m. that he hadn’t had anyone come by that could fill either of those two jobs.

“For the mechanical engineer, you have to have a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering. Unemployment among engineers is not very high. That’s a tough one to fill,” he said. “The tufting mechanic we just started looking for last week.”

Michael Davis, director of human resources at Mountville Mills, said that company had openings in customer service and production.

“We’ve had a couple of folks stop by that looked promising. Hopefully, we’ll have more as the day goes by,” he said.

Mountville Mills produces decorative floor mats. Its offices are in LaGrange, but it has a manufacturing facility in Dalton.

By 1 p.m., jobseekers packed the trade center arena, talking to representatives from the various companies and handing out résumés.

Dalton resident Hannah Hudson said she was laid off in November from a printing company in Chattanooga.

“I have an associate’s in early childhood and web development. What I love now is social media, where I help a company with its Twitter feed and its Facebook page. I also like to do web design,” she said. “I haven’t gotten to all the booths yet. But hopefully, something will pop up.”

Butler said that after the expo is over, the Labor Department will review both it and the job readiness fair to see if they need to make any changes before unrolling the program out across the state.

“We’ll probably start in a small area and review it again before taking it to our larger metro areas,” he said.

Dalton has the highest unemployment rate of any metro area in Georgia. The Georgia Department of Labor reports that unemployment in Metro Dalton, which includes Whitfield and Murray counties, rose to 11.3 percent in October from 11.1 percent in September. The area has lost 23 percent of its jobs since 2007, due to the downturn in the housing market and its impact on the local floorcovering industry.

Local business leaders requested the job training fair, and on Wednesday, Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce President Brian Anderson said he was very pleased with the turnout for the job expo.

“The employers I’ve talked to are encouraged by the turnout, and they say the candidate pool is a little better than they are used to in general,” he said. “Coming from four weeks ago, when the turnout (for the job readiness fair) wasn’t as large as I had thought it would be, to see this sort of turnout, and to see all these employers willing to take their time, gives me reassurance that there are still some connections that can be made. If we employ 100 people today, who’ll get a real paycheck instead of a unemployment insurance check, then this is a success.”

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