It’s happenin’ at the fair

Published 2:00 am Saturday, September 26, 2009

SELMA — Career seekers here received a welcomed sight Friday morning at a Career Fair at the Alabama Career Center on Water Avenue.

Many unemployed residents took the opportunity to come in and fill out applications for the more-than 27 potential employers, including Calhoun Foods, Wallace Community College Selma-Tech, First Cahawba Bank, Sonic Drive-In and Alabama Power, who sent representatives.

Seeing so many potential employers helped make some feel more hopeful about the future.

“It made me feel a lot better about my situation,” said Rodeshia Webb of Selma.

Webb has been out of work for three months. She wants to find a job in the restaurant business.

Others haven’t seen a job in a long time. They want something now.

“I’ve been out of work for two years,” Cierra Soles of Selma said. “I’m hoping to find something in a business office somewhere.”

Soles, a single mother of one, said she wasn’t concerned about the location of her next job.

“I’ve applied here and all the way to Montgomery and Prattville,” Soles said. “I’ve probably applied to more than 200 jobs.”

In the time she’s been unemployed, Soles has been dependent upon unemployment benefits to keep her going.

“I hope to find something really soon,” Soles said. “I’m ready to start working again.”

Dr. Margaret Hardy, manager of the Central Alabama Career Center, was moved by the number of people who showed up to apply for jobs and by the number of employers who chose to participate.

“It was just heart-warming,” Hardy said. “The line stretched all the way down the street.”

However, Hardy was determined for people to know this event “was not a Career Fair.”

“This was ‘Career Exploration Day’,” Hardy said. “We want people to know that, even if you don’t find a job right now, you should never give up hope. There are jobs out there and this a great opportunity for people to come in and market themselves and their skills to those potential employers.”

The level of organization and the turnout of the “Career Exploration Day” impressed some of the employers.

“I’ve been coming to these for about 20 years and this is, by far, the best one I’ve seen,” Jimmie Coleman, store director of Calhoun Foods, said. “It’s great for us as employers because we get to meet so many great candidates all at once.”

Planning for the event began about three months ago, said Sheryl Smedley, executive director of the Selma-Dallas Chamber of Commerce. She worked with Clifford Hunter, interim coordinator of the Alabama Career Center in Selma, Mayor George Evans and Police Chief William Riley.

Hunter said he was impressed by the number of applicants who showed up for Friday’s event.

“I was here at 7:30 in the morning and there were already 30 people waiting,” Hunter said. “I knew then it was going to be a good day.”

As for the future, Hunter wanted to give something real to potential job seekers.

“We don’t want to sell false hopes to people,” Hunter said. “We want to work with people who are truly seeking work and employers who actually have jobs to offer.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for Alabama is 10.6 percent with the national unemployment rate at 9.6 percent.

According to the Alabama Career Center in Selma, Dallas County’s unemployment rate is 21.8 percent.