published: Friday, September 13, 2013
Job seekers: More pay; Employers: Give hours
Heartland Workforce job fair surpasses May attendance within two hours
By PHIL ATTINGER
SEBRING -- Geri Snyder, with 37 years of insurance experience, has been looking for a job every day since Aug. 1.
Carl Paustian, retired from the U.S. Navy and recently laid off from a manufacturing job, has been looking since June.
Meanwhile, younger applicants Jenna Velez and Brodie Hulsey -- who graduated from local high schools within the last two years -- want something to pay the bills as they work toward other goals.
They were all at Thursday's job fair at the Bert J. Harris Jr. Agricultural Center in Sebring.
The first hour was reserved for military veterans only. At 11 a.m., it opened to the general public.
Stephanie Christenson, staff sergeant with the U.S. Army, said she managed 22 soldiers as a platoon sergeant and could have served as a drill instructor. She said she might apply for an open position as a troubled youth counselor, or she could run heavy equipment with another employer.
She appreciated Heartland Workforce giving veterans an early start with employers.
"Luckily, that gives us an edge," Christenson said.
Ken Willis, Heartland Workforce local veterans representative, said that by noon Thursday's event had already surpassed the 173-person total attendance of May's "Paychecks for Patriots" job fair.
Ann Martin, chief operating officer for Heartland Workforce, said the organization will provide employee worker training to help employees get promoted, but most people want a job right away and can't wait for training.
Velez said she has to juggle a class schedule at South Florida State College with responsibilities to her 1 1/2-year-old son.
She's studying to do social work, but would be fine with getting a clerical job now.
"I go to school at night and I want to have time with him," Velez said.
As for the local job market, the 2011 Avon Park High School graduate said there's not a lot in Highlands County.
She's talked to several possible employers, but nothing has jelled. Velez said she can't commute outside the county because of her baby.
Paustian said his recently earned online masters in business administration hasn't given him an edge yet in financial management jobs.
"That's why I went through all the fun and games to get it," Paustian said.
Most employers are looking for younger people, said the 49-year-old veteran who saw mostly people his age at the job fair.
He also said salaries in Highlands and other parts of central Florida are not high enough to make a "reasonable living."
"There's always something out there. You've got to keep looking to keep the bill collectors happy," Paustian said.
Snyder said most jobs are asking for people to work for at or slightly above the $7.79-per-hour minimum wage.
"Nobody can live on that," Snyder said.
However, she gives kudos to Heartland Workforce for providing Internet access, job availability tips and job-related training for job seekers.
And she said her heart goes out to everyone who is looking.
"God is helping me through this," Snyder said. "I have given my problem to God. I will find a job when it's needed."
Prospective employers included corrections and law enforcement agencies; hospitality employers such as Chateau Élan and Olympic Restaurant; retail such as Marshalls and Books-A-Million and Lowe's; service industries such as UPS and Edward Jones, as well as health field providers such as Positive Medical Transport and The Palms of Sebring.
Maria Pazos and Kathy Perry with Lykes Bros. Inc. said the company is trying to fill mechanic, labor, and clerical positions, as well as a new position for a ranch manager at Silver Lakes Preserve -- an 1,876-acre hunting preserve near LaBelle.
The company hires year-round, Perry said, "(but) this is the most openings we've had in a long time."
Crystal Moore, with Highlands County Sheriff's Office human resources, said the agency is looking for a cook, a nurse and a dispatcher. Former call personnel from Agero -- which has a local roadside assistance call center -- have helped swell their ranks since the Sheriff's Office started dispatching police, fire and emergency medical services, said Kathy Fluharty, human resources administrator.
Meanwhile, retailers like Marshalls and Books-A-Million want people who can be flexible, both in hours and job tasks.
Karen Alexander and Audra Brown, managers at Marshalls, said the company may need five or six more people for the holiday season.
The hardest thing for them is to find people who can work nights, weekends or holidays because of family obligations.
Nadine Sombrio, Books-A-Million general manager, said she needs up to 10 people this season as booksellers and baristas,.
She wants them cross-trained so they can promote books, coffee and gift cards, as well as help customers find the books they want.
"That's what I want to do with them," Sambrio said.
night work/cross trained (by: Grow Florida number 1 - 9/16/2013)
This is same problem all over the state greed. night work but can't supply childcare. Cross train and still only pay minimum wage $7.79. Try this Have compains get together and have joint childcare location, with transportation to and from the day care or open a day care in your business. Cross train employee's pay them $10.00 hour and only work them 28-30 hours or less.
Job fair (by: Todd - 9/14/2013)
Why not let people know that this event is going to occur several days in advance of the event? The other paper reported it on the day of the event, and you are reporting the news after the fact. Job seekers need advance notice so they can prepare for the event
Questionable Data Collection (by: Confused - 9/13/2013)
When entering the job fair you are asked to fill out a form. That's just to get in. This form asks for your name, address, email address, phone number and Social Security Number... In addition they ask for race and gender information.
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