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Orange County hosts job fair for prospective employees

Orange County hosted a job fair in September at University Place in Chapel Hill. 

Orange County hosted a job fair in September at University Place in Chapel Hill. 

Dozens of employers filled the halls inside University Place with stands Wednesday, offering hiring information to potential employees as part of the Orange County Fall Job Fair. 

Job-seekers toured the tables, exchanging introductions and questions with employers from the region in and around Orange County. 

Shanika Williams, Orange County Department of Social Services human services coordinator, helped to bring together companies interested in the job fair.  

“We have a wide variety of employers, from Wendy’s and Bojangles' to professional employers. UNC Health Care is here, Manpower is here,” she said. 

Lindsey Shewmaker, Orange County Department of Social Services human services manager, said the diversity of employers boded well for aspiring workers, especially if they are unsure which career to pursue. 

“These types of events are a really good way for job-seekers to get information about many different sectors,” Shewmaker said. 

Williams said the event targets people who are unemployed or underemployed to connect them with businesses at a neutral site where they can gather employment information. 

“We feel like we can bridge the gap between those who don’t know where to look and employers that are too busy to seek them out,” Williams said. 

As they toured tables for different companies, potential employees exchanged names with hiring managers, helping them along in the application process. William Ballard, a job fair attendee, said he valued the chance the event gave him to network. 

“To get a good job, that’s a perfect opportunity to further yourself, just as a human being,” he said. 

In addition to benefiting job seekers, Shewmaker said the job fair could be just as helpful for attending employers. 

“Employers are having a more difficult time finding high-qualified employees than employees are finding jobs,” she said. 

Robert Gilmore, Orange County Department of Social Services human services supervisor, said the current job market was good for Orange County citizens looking for jobs, with an unemployment rate at about four percent. 

“Everybody’s hiring, there’s no particular employer — from your retail to career services field, to your IT field, down to construction,” he said. “It’s not seen as a stigma. They come willing to participate with hiring and recruitment efforts and expect that to be matched by job-seekers.”

Albert Brooks, general manager at Old Navy, said this was his first time attending the job fair but is always looking to broaden his outreach and add new employees. 

“This event hopefully gives us the opportunity to connect with more members of the community, and when I think about my store, I want it to mirror the community,” Brooks said. 

Jaquel Brothers, staffing specialist at Avant, said she likes the job fair because it draws people who she otherwise would likely not have met. 

“The event gives us a lot of opportunities to meet candidates and inform them on the jobs we have, or to find an opportunity for them,” she said. 

Gilmore said by bringing together companies and potential workers, the event breaks down the stigma of Social Services and helps people who are hard on their luck get back on their feet.

“It’s a win-win for employers, a win-win for job-seekers, and a win-win for Social Services,” he said.

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