Job fair bridges gap between employers and potential young workers

·3 min read

May 28—Local high school seniors who were seeking employment were able to meet with more than 20 employers recently at the Junior Achievement Discovery Center of Greater Dalton.

"This is a really big opportunity, and I feel lucky to be here," said Henry Arredondo, who was a senior at Southeast Whitfield High School. "It's great to (meet with) all of these (employers) at once."

"So many employers are in need of workers right now, and we're always trying to bridge the gap between (employers) and our seniors," said Doug Shults, a work-based learning teacher at Dalton High School.

The high school seniors were "getting ready to graduate, and lots of businesses locally are looking to hire some new workforce," said Lindsay Douglas, a work-based learning coordinator for Whitfield County Schools. "We even have some here from out of the area, like C.W. Matthews Contracting, out of Atlanta. They're up here doing" road construction.

In April, 44% of small businesses said they had job openings they couldn't fill, an all-time high for the third straight month, according to the National Federation of Independent Business.

Companies represented at the job fair included Displaycraft, Engineered Floors, Hamilton Health Care System and Kroger, and "they're offering very competitive" wages, said Douglas, who is based at Coahulla Creek High School. "It's good to have an" in-person job fair, rather than virtual, because employers can meet "face-to-face" with job seekers, and "some (students) even received job offers on the spot."

"I have a job, but I want to see what else is out there, (possibly) better offers," said Arredondo. Among those he spoke with at the job fair were Textile Rubber and Chemical Co. representatives who told him about "what they could train me in, (from) working inside with textiles to welding."

His classmate, Janet Rubio, is interested in a medical career, perhaps in nursing, but she also wants to "gain experience in the workforce," she said. "We're graduating and going into the real world."

She plans to attend either Dalton State College or Georgia Northwestern Technical College, and she learned at the job fair Shaw Industries might help pay for her schooling at the latter while she works for the company, she said. She was also intrigued by offers from AdventHealth, and she appreciated the job fair not only because of avenues it presented that she'd already pondered, but also "because you got to see a lot of different jobs you weren't interested in before but now have to consider."

Dalton High's Elizabeth Avalos was undecided on attending the job fair initially, but her mother convinced her "to see what it has to offer," and she was glad she did, she said. "It's so much (at once) — I'll need time to think about all the possibilities — but it's great they're all here, like a convention."

"I want to get work experience and earn money over the summer," Avalos added. She's thinking about a future as either a veterinarian or an "art director for a company, because I have the ability to create stories and content ..."

"We're trying to connect employers and kids together," with both the job fair, as well as "our new website, daltonwbl.com, where students can find jobs, and employers can find (potential) workers," said Larry Tripp, a work-based learning teacher at Dalton High. "The website is a one-stop shop for parents, students and employers."

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