SOMERSET – More than 2,000 people attended last week’s job fair, a testament to the high unemployment rate in New Jersey.
The Central Jersey Community Development Center (CJCDC) and 15 churches throughout Somerset and Middlesex counties hosted the job fair on March 3 that featured 20 companies, and was followed by a Service of Hope and Healing at First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset.
“At 2:30 p.m., we had people lined up (Route) 27,” Dr. DeForest B. Soaries, Jr., CEO of the CJCDC, said of the job fair that started at 3 p.m. “The good news is that people want work. The bad news is that so many people need work.”
Shelly Hoagland, 46, of Franklin Park, worked in administration at St. Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick for 21 years before she lost her job. That was nine months ago and Hoagland is still unemployed.
“It’s really tough for me. I’ve looked everywhere for work,” she said yesterday while filling out an application for Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital.
Clifford Souffrant, 29, of New Brunswick, is looking to change careers. He was laid off from a brokerage firm in Jersey City one year ago and is now looking into law enforcement. He spoke with the New Jersey State Police yesterday.
“There’s lots of opportunity and you’re not stuck doing the same thing every day. It would be more challenging and I could interact with people,” he said of the switch.
And Charles Pennington, 42, of Plainfield, said even good plumbers can’t find work. He’s been without steady work for nine months.
“I’ve done my trade for 20 years and I’m good at it. I’m looking for something steady, but can’t find anything. My workload has declined and it’s been rough,” he said.
Soaries’ goal was to reach 1,000 people, but twice that amount showed up. There were 350 openings that could eventually be filled by the attendees. He was also hoping that interviewing and contingency hiring would have been done on the spot, but so many people attended the job fair, human resource representatives didn’t have time to interview people.
Ayanna Doaman, a recruiting consultant at Wachovia, ran out of materials because the crowd was so massive.
“I’ve noticed this trend at job fairs,” she said of the large crowd.
Maintaining his hiring goal, Soaries is already brainstorming for ways to host a similar event, but with specific industries and a smaller turnout, so interviewing and contingency hires can be done on the spot.
“Resumes were collected from everyone who had one to give and a resume bank will be created so the CJCDC can do job matching in the future,” said Charles Brown, chair of the outreach committee, which was responsible for recruiting companies to participate.
“More than 1,000 people were trained on both interviewing and resume writing. And more than 500 brochures were handed out that provided articles on networking, which industries are hiring and the best locations for jobs throughout the country,” Brown continued.
After the job fair, the 15 churches came together for a Service of Hope and Healing. Pastors from the various churches prayed for issues related to unemployment, such as health insurance, an increase in business, surviving on less, faith and encouragement.
Rev. Gregory Jackson, senior pastor of Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Hackensack, was the guest preacher and his topic, based on John 21:1-17, was “Failing Forward.”
He told the congregation to not let failure get on the inside, because you may start believing it.
“When you’re unemployed for a long time, you lose hope and feel like a failure. But wait on the Lord. The Lord is able,” Jackson said.
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