The private operator of a federal detention facility in Gainesville held a job fair Wednesday for 14 medical positions.
While there appeared to be few applicants applying in person, the warden of North Georgia Detention Center said hundreds already have applied for 160 other jobs offered by the company.
"Corrections is a career," said Stacey Stone, warden of the facility, which will be located in the former Hall County Jail. "We’re looking for people who want to start a career. Today, we’re looking for health care, but we also have administrative, security and maintenance staff."
Stone said the company already has interviewed a number of candidates for medical jobs. The job fair at the Georgia Department of Labor Career Center on Atlanta Highway drew only a handful of applicants who filled out applications on computers.
The warden said more than 500 applications have been received with many qualified applicants.
"The applicant pools in Gainesville and surrounding areas are some of the best I’ve ever seen," Stone said.
The job openings come at a time when they are needed in the region.
The Georgia Department of Labor placed the state’s jobless rate at 9.3 percent in February.
The agency reported Wednesday that the unemployment rate in the metro Gainesville area rose to 8.9 percent in February, up 4.6 percentage points from February 2008. The jobless rate in metro Gainesville rose 0.6 of a percentage point from a revised 8.3 percent in January. The agency said the Gainesville area lost 2,700 jobs in February.
"The latest local unemployment rates reflect the severity of the ongoing recession in Georgia," said state Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond. "In 87 of our state’s 159 counties, double-digit unemployment is a sobering reality. A rising tide of joblessness is spreading across our state."
Mark Winters, manager of the labor department’s Gainesville office, said the agency routinely holds job fairs for prospective employees.
"We welcome that opportunity," Winters said.
Jobs in the medical field have continued to be in demand, despite the soft economy.
A human resources representative for Northeast Georgia Health System said there is a strong need, especially for nurses with specialized skills.
"We are actively recruiting for both registered nurse and LPN positions," said Tina Walden. She said more specialized positions, such as surgical nurses, were more competitive.
Walden also said there has been less turnover in positions within the health system.
Corrections Corporation of America, a Tennessee-based operator of state and federal detention facilities, announced earlier this month that it had reached agreement with Hall County to lease the former county jail as a holding facility for 500 immigration detainees.
The company has charge over 75,000 offenders and detainees in 60 facilities, including four others in Georgia.