More than 1,000 job-seekers attend SC Works job fair

Darlene Owens is looking for the opportunity to help people. She is also looking for a job.

Owens was one of more than 1,000 people that turned out Thursday for an SC Works job fair at the Gateway Conference Center near Richburg. Forty businesses, organizations and industries were on hand trying to fill almost available 600 jobs in Chester, Lancaster and York.

SC Works has smaller job fairs through the course of the year, including many catering to specific employers. A large scale fair is held once a year, and Sharon Blackburn, SC Works Catawba project director, figures that Thursday’s was even larger than last year’s held in Rock Hill, which drew 950 job-seekers. There was considerable build-up to Thursday’s event.

“We’ve been offering job readiness workshops,” Blackburn said. “They were at different places in the community and were very well attended.”

To participate in the fair, employers had to have scheduled hirings within the next three to six months. Blackburn follows up with all the employers to see which applicants were placed where. Some of the people on hand, many of whom brought stacks of resumes to the proceedings, were looking for a new job or career advancement, but many more are currently unemployed. Available jobs ran the gamut, with some being entry-level positions requiring little formal education and some others calling for high levels of experience and specific training. A representative of Schaeffler, based in Fort Mill, said her company had both. People without a college education or even a high school diploma can take “work keys” testing to demonstrate that they do basic math and follow basic written instructions. Once they show that, they are eligible for starter positions. Schaeffler also has specialized positions open, like tool die makers.

Andrea Reinders, with Thomas and Betts of Lancaster, said she had met with a number of great candidates over the course of the day.

“We’re doing targeted recruiting,” Reinders said. “I’m very pleased with the outcome.”

Thomas and Betts fabricates metal poles for utility companies and is looking for welders, fitters and inventory specialists. She said she talked with at least 10 qualified people for every job the company has open on Thursday. She called it a misconception that there are not jobs available in the area. In fact, she said her company, and others, have a tough time filling some positions. She said Thomas and Betts, PPG and other companies are launching an initiative to reach high school and college students to let them know that good-paying careers, like welding, have openings.

“The Haile Gold Mine is in the final permitting stages and they’re going to need 100 welders. We need them, as do others, and we’re all already working from the same small pool,” Reinders said.

Thomas and Betts wasn’t the only company that had luck mining available talent. Tisha Sanders, with ResCare Home Care of Rock Hill and Chester, said she came looking for CNAs and PCAs and found several. Tony Wooten of Boral Cultured Stone found a number of people ready to step into entry-level positions and production specialists slots.

The job-seekers seemed as satisfied as their perspective employers. Shaequavious Graham, of Great Falls, came looking for a production job and thinks she found what she was looking for with an opening at Softex Paper. Then there was Owens, who has a broad range of work experience, having worked in school computer labs, sales, as a bank teller and a musician.

“I’m a people person. I love working with people and I’m looking for something in the clerical field,” Owens said.

After talking with representatives from several companies, including Safelink Wireless, Owens said she found several positions she’s interested.

“I heard some things that are very promising,” she said.

By Travis Jenkins, Staff Reporter with The News & Reporter