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Program aims to help workers find jobs

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Stimulus-funded regional job fairs held at local libraries

By Phyllis McLaughlin

The Trimble Banner

With unemployment in the double-digits, trying to find work is a full-time job in itself.

Using stimulus funds from the American Recover Reinvestment Act, the Kentucky Office of Employment and Training has been offering job fairs throughout the state trying to help unemployed Kentuckians get back into the work force.

Lee Boyd, an employment facilitator with the OET, who hosted a job fair Monday at the Trimble County Public Library, said the job fairs have been held monthly since October. Job fairs also have been held monthly at libraries in Carroll, Henry, Shelby and Oldham counties, and at several locations in Jefferson County.

Boyd said he sends e-mails to everyone in the state’s database who is receiving unemployment benefits to invite them to the job fairs. Those interested are encouraged to bring their updated resumes and dress for interviews with companies who send representatives to the fairs. Boyd said usually he has five to seven companies at the Trimble job fairs. On this day, only three of the five companies signed up for the event were in attendance.

In addition to talking to representatives, job-seekers who attend the event can sit down with Boyd to see if he can match them with one of the thousands of companies in the region that have open positions.

“We see dramatic success,” Boyd said, estimating that about 20 people are hired for full- or part-time positions each week through the job fairs.

It can be a win-win opportunity for the companies, too, which are eligible for state tax credits for each person they hire that is currently receiving unemployment benefits.

Rob Hard, sales manager for the Louisville office of Monumental Life Insurance, has attended five job fairs in Trimble County. He said at last month’s fair, he hired a Carrollton woman for a full-time position.

Hard said hiring for his company can be challenging, because to work in the financial industry, “people have to be licensed. That narrows our potential candidate pool.”

Hirees for Monumental mostly sell life and health insurance policies, plus the company’s supplemental products, he said. A full-time sales representative could service an area with 800 to 1,000 families with Monumental policies.

Part-time positions with the company, he said, allow hirees to work at their own pace and set their own hours. “They can learn the process of becoming certified and learn the business at the same time,” while earning extra income, he said.

Colleges also attend the job fairs to offer education alternatives to job-seekers, as well as fill positions. A representative of the University of Phoenix Louisville Campus said the university also has many openings nationwide.

Local individuals

frustrated by job hunt

While some people are finding success at job fairs and through other employment services, job hunting seems to be getting the best of Michelle Vest of Trimble County.

Vest, 45, attended Monday’s job fair hoping to find something to replace the job she lost. She was laid off Oct. 2 from The Jenner Co., a La Grange, Ky., stationery engraving plant, and has been pounding the pavement for work ever since.

“There’s just nothing out there,” she said. This month’s job fair, unfortunately, did not provide her with many leads.

A single mother of two teenagers, Vest said she is no stranger to hard work. But even with one year of college and a strong work history, she has found no success looking for employment.

“I’ve tried everything. Job fairs, online [job sites], word of mouth,” Vest said. “Why is it I can’t find a full-time job when I was working full time and part time for so many years? I don’t understand. Why don’t people want to hire me?”

Judy Kittrell, 60, of La Grange, a former co-worker of Vests at Jenner, also came to Bedford for the job fair.

Kittrell was laid off in September after 27 years at Jenner, said most of the job leads she has found require additional training or education. At 60, she feels she doesn’t have time for school, and is hoping to find a full-time position that requires skills she already has.

She said she did not attend college, but her 45-year work history in manufacturing includes management positions.

Additionally, most positions she’s found only offer part-time hours, with no benefits and for less money than she used to make.

The most painful part of her situation, she said, is that she believed if she needed to find a new job, she could. “There are companies I thought I could always go to work for. But, they’re not hiring. They have no positions.”

Leslie Healy of Milton said he is in a similar bind.

Healy also attended the job fair Monday, hoping to find employment. He was permanently laid off recently from Bobcat Enterprises in Louisville, where he worked as a mechanic repairing Bobcat equipment. His work was rather specialized, and “there are no other dealers” selling or repairing Bobcat equipment.

He said he’s also been trying hard to find jobs; taking the pre-employment tests is the worst part, he said, because he hasn’t taken tests since graduating from school 30 years ago.