Those looking for work at Tuesday’s job fair ranged from recent graduates to the long-time unemployed, but most seemed to share stories of looking for work and finding none.
Unemployed 18-year-old Kaitlyn Watson drove in from White Plains hoping to find a job at the soon-to-be completed 49,098-square-foot store at Exit 188 on Interstate 20. Watson said she’s applied for retail and restaurant jobs since graduating from high school in May, but so far nothing has come through. She’s holding out hope that the application she filled out just a few moments after the doors opened Tuesday morning will get her a call back.
“I’ve tried and tried and tried,” Watson said. “Maybe this will work.”
But for some — like 46-year-old William Cheatwood from Oxford — the search for a job has been much longer. Cheatwood was last employed in 2009 at a local bookseller. He drew unemployment for about a year of the three he’s since spent looking for work, Cheatwood said. He’s been doing odd jobs when he can find them until he finds something steady.
“I’ve put applications at fast food places and I can’t get calls back. That’s how bad it is. You name the place and I’ve put an application in,” Cheatwood said.
He’s hopeful, Cheatwood said, about his chances of getting one of those 100 jobs, but watching the continuous line of people walking into the job fair Tuesday morning, he added, “There’s no guarantee I’ll get a job with this company.”
Unlike many of the applicants, Anniston resident Darryl Booker was able to find a part-time job since he moved back to Anniston from South Carolina a few years ago to help care for his aging mother. But the 45-year-old said that working just 20 hours a week isn’t enough. He came looking for a better opportunity.
Booker’s hope Tuesday, he said, was to find a job that offered as many hours as the restaurant job he left behind in South Carolina.
When asked how the job search has been since coming back to Alabama, Booker shook his head and offered only “It’s hard out there.”
As a staffing specialist for Publix, which is headquartered in Florida, Nick Collins hosts job fairs for the grocery chain in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina. Collins declined to comment on whether the lines of applicants at Publix job fairs have been getting longer since he began working for the company eight years ago, but he said the jobs are coveted because of the quality of the company.
Collins cited “everything from the benefits to working with other people” as well as “the culture of the company” as reasons why people want to work for the “customer-service oriented” company.
According to pamphlets given out to applicants, quarterly bonuses, 401(k) and stock ownership plans, tuition reimbursement and an annual holiday bonus to employees are among other benefits Publix offers.
Staffing services and numerous applications to retail outlets haven’t provided any viable job opportunities for Haley Harrell. Her last job building tractor-trailer truck seats for the Piedmont plant CVG Alabama ended in August. The 22-year-old said she was told to expect a call back from Publix about her application in a month or so.
But just in case, Harrell said, she’s got a backup plan. If she’s still unemployed in January, she’ll enlist in the U.S. Army.