Atlanta job fair offered help but not many jobs

When is a job fair not really a job fair?

When there are few jobs available.

That was the case Monday  at the Fox Theatre at an event sponsored by AARP and The Employment Guide.

Organizers said 2,500 people of all ages pre-registered and perhaps 5,000 came. They wanted work, but there was little to be had.

"I didn't find a single employer I could give my resume to," said Bill Mason, 62,  who said he's been unemployed for six months since being laid off from his job as an assistant librarian at Emory University. "It's not what I expected."

"It was a waste of time," said Debra Long, 54, of Ellenwood. "I'm looking for a job, not to find out how to fill out a resume."

Resume' preparation advice was one of the offerings at the fair, along with workshops on building a job-seeker's "brand" and dressing appropriately. Career counseling also was offered.

A few companies occupying the 19 display tables said they were hiring, such as Norcross -based American Coach Lines of Atlanta, a shuttle and transit service. The firm took some applications, but representative Shane Shipman said he wants drivers with commercial licenses, and few at the fair had them.

Many booths were occupied by career schools like the University of Phoenix, government entities like the Department of Labor and Department of Veteran's Affairs, and military branches, the Navy and Marines. While the Navy drew some requests for more information from those young enough, the Marines table was quiet.

AARP Georgia state director Kenneth Mitchell said he understood fair-goers' frustration.

"If the economy was doing better we would have more employers," he said, adding that he hoped attendees gained skills at the workshops that will help them when hiring increases.

The Fox fair was the third of 48 scheduled around the country. Atlanta will have a second such event in August at Philips Arena.

"The hardest thing is getting employers to come out," said Amy Hoster, business development manager for WiserWorker.com, a unit of The Employment Guide that targets job seekers 40 and over. Not all markets see a dearth of employers, though. Next week, she said, 60 companies are expected at an event in Cleveland.