Jun. 3—OXFORD — Job fairs, like most things, have changed after the pandemic.
At the local branch of Kelly Services, a global staffing company that hires for Honda Manufacturing of Alabama among other companies, a job fair Thursday morning appeared from outside the building on U.S. 78 to be entirely unattended, about two hours into the four-hour event. But inside, recruiters with headsets and computers helped people apply by phone for more than 100 open positions with Honda. Over a span of about 45 minutes that morning, recruiters had few moments without a call in their ears.
"A lot more virtual job fairs are being held, because it can all be done from home," said Dylan DeTroye, account manager for Kelly Services. "We've had more virtual than we've had in-person today."
Still, the lack of a line out the door seemed unusual. Locals talk about Honda jobs as if they're Alabama gold. Career tech schools boast about graduates who take positions with the company, touting benefit packages and job security. And the company hasn't put out the call for this many temp-to-hire workers in some time, but needs to fill employment gaps left by early retirements last year, DeTroye said.
"A lot of people who come to work full-time for Honda, they stay there. You see a lot of folks who have been there 10 or 15 years," he said. "They're trying to hire the next generation to take that torch."
Attempts to reach Honda of Alabama about hiring were unsuccessful Thursday.
Demand for the jobs is lower than usual right now, DeTroye said, at least in part due to federal unemployment benefits issued after COVID took many Americans out of the workplace last year.
Alabama will stop accepting federal benefits on June 19, a decision Gov. Kay Ivey said would counteract the labor shortage. Government benefits totaled a maximum $300 per week, and the state's unemployment benefits provided another $275 per week, giving a maximum $575 per week under those programs.
The most visible area of labor strain has been a shortage of food workers in the last few months, though DeTroye said that strain exists in the industrial and professional job markets as well.
Kelly will hold another Honda job fair June 26, the week after expanded unemployment benefits end, at its office at 1994 U.S. 78 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
DeTroye predicted a spike in demand at that time, as people prepare to return to work.
Erica Keith, one of the recruiters at the Kelly office, said Thursday's job fair was the first held in conjunction with the Calhoun County Department of Human Resources and its job programs. The two organizations will hold more fairs in the coming months, she said.
Keith noted that the Honda positions will remain open until filled, and can be applied for even after the fair ends.
"We're looking for anyone who is looking for employment," Keith said, in fields ranging from manufacturing to customer service and retail. "Anyone who is qualified and willing to work."
The staffing company's Oxford branch can be reached at 256-832-0247.
Assistant Metro Editor Ben Nunnally: 256-235-3560.