A DeKalb County church parking lot was filled with hopeful job applicants Monday, many of them carrying folders and putting on blazers as they walked up in the mid-80 degree heat.
The job fair was held one week before Labor Day, a time when students have generally returned to school and may be considering what careers are available during an unusually tight labor market. Georgia unemployment is at a 17-year low, with the jobless rate having fallen to 3.9 percent last month.
Pastor Bobby Hampton, the youth and young adult pastor of House of Hope Atlanta, partnered with the Georgia Department of Labor and Goodwill of North Georgia to host the event at the church on Flat Shoals Parkway. Hampton said he expected more than 1,500 people to attend the fair geared toward millennials and veterans.
The 34-year-old youth pastor paced around a giant auditorium filled with dozens of job booths, promoting them on a microphone as if they were celebrities in a nightclub.
“Atlanta Hawks is in the building. Y’all come check out jobs at Grady. Legal Shield, Legal Shield is in the house. Come start your career at Napa Auto Parts,” Hampton called out.
Most job hunters who registered for the event were interested in positions in the information technology, computer science and business administration fields, Hampton said. But representatives for blue-collar and vocational jobs — including the Georgia Department of Transportation, which was looking for maintenance workers — were there as well.
Young adults with a diploma or GED who want to go straight into the workforce instead of college could apply with the DeKalb County Police Department or Emory Police, Hampton said. He pointed high school students poised for college to Walmart, which offers a tuition reimbursement program and was seeking supervisor, management, warehouse and sales associate positions.
The youth pastor’s advice for those without any or much experience is to intern with a nonprofit or connect with a temp agency or staffing service, such as UpStaff Solutions, to help build a resume.
Latangila Bellamy, from Encadria Staffing Solutions, whose parent company is Georgia-Pacific, was there recruiting for a machine operator position in Covington. The ideal candidate would be someone with light industrial and customer service experience, and who is used to the warehouse environment.
“We have a definite need and are definitely looking to put people to work,” Bellamy said, while fielding questions from a steady stream of people.
Parked outside the job fair was a mobile office for WorkSource DeKalb, a county program that provides job-seeker services. Jayson Porter, 19, had gone in to print out his resume for an HVAC job, a trade he’d received advanced training for in the Army.
Porter said he felt confident he’d get the job, despite a “difficult” job market due to the population surge in Atlanta.
“I just want to hurry up and find my place, and stick to that one thing before I leave again,” said Porter, who could be deployed at any time.
Jasmine Singfield, an unemployed 23-year-old mother of a 3-year-old, also felt she was entering a “tough” job market with high competition. The Jonesboro resident had come to see about a security job with Allied Universal, which could provide needed flexibility.
But after seeing Grady Health System’s booth, she veered in that direction, interested in a position as a medical assistant — a field she’s studied at Clayton State University.
“Today I’m hopeful, because I got time to interact and meet with some of the recruiters that can give a good word,” Singfield said.
Uncertainty about the job market wasn’t unique to those new to the work force.
LeNair Hunt, a House of Hope church member who lives in Sandy Springs, said she has about 17 years of experience as a senior human resources manage. The 51-year-old completed four years of college at Illinois State University, but didn’t graduate, and has been working on getting a Mary Kay business off the ground.
Hunt was looking for an HR position at the fair, she said, after Comcast eliminated her position due to downsizing at last year.
“Life kind of happened after that, so I’m just now starting to get back into the job market, so we’ll see,” Hunt said. “We’ll see how it goes.”
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