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Hall County Schools’ second annual hiring fair busting myth that young people don’t want to work
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Marth Carrera of Hall County Central Communications hands out pamphlets Wednesday, March 29, 2023, as Area high school students gather at at Lanier College Career Academy to meet prospective employers during a job fair at the school. - photo by Scott Rogers

Hall County high schoolers on Wednesday filtered through Lanier College and Academy for the school district’s second annual hiring fair. 

Twenty-five businesses had booths lining the perimeter of the banquet hall, talking with students, giving out cards and handing out applications. 

“There are students that have actually applied today,” said Rhonda Samples, executive director of Career, Technical and Agricultural Education for Hall County Schools. She is also CEO of LCCA, the epicenter of the district’s work-based learning programs. 

Samples said eight high schools and about 200 students participated in the hiring fair. 

“The kids today were so very engaged,” said Greg Vitek, a consultant for Workforce Strategies Group and a member of the school district’s CTAE advisory committee. 

“It’s like they were here for a purpose,” he said. 

Hayron Alvarado, a senior at Flowery Branch High School, is keen on joining the Air Force after watching the movie “Top Gun: Maverick.” 

In the meantime, though, Alvarado said he may take a summer job before enlisting. He said hiring fairs like these give him an idea of what’s out there. 

“I think it’s a great opportunity for young people … who don’t know what they want to do,” he said. 

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Area high school students gather at at Lanier College Career Academy to meet prospective employers during a job fair at the school. - photo by Scott Rogers

Tyler Eubanks, a junior at Flowery Branch High who wants to be an Army combat medic or a trauma surgeon, pointed out the Asher Agency when asked which companies piqued his interest most Wednesday. 

The insurance agency, located on Washington Street, has been in Gainesville for 12 years. Principal Agent Casey Tanksley said she needs a sales agent who can speak Spanish as she looks to expand the company. 

She only needs to fill one position as of now, but was able to schedule seven interviews with students. 

Samples said many businesses are looking for workers, though staffing shortages have improved. 

“We’re not getting as many emails and calls (from employers) as we were,” she said. 

Vitek said many employers aren’t as busy, and thus don’t need as many workers, after a series of Federal Reserve interest rate hikes. He said some companies are looking to further develop their current employees rather than looking for new ones. 

He said the manufacturing sector employs the largest numbers of workers in Hall County, followed by health care. 

The Frances Meadows Aquatic Center, run by Gainesville Parks and Recreation, needs about 20 lifeguards for the summer, slightly better than the shortage last summer. 

“Last summer was really rough,” said Justin Latoni, aquatics manager for the center, though a bump in pay has led to an increase in applications. 

He said they’ve raised starting pay from $11 to $14 an hour. 

“We’ve had a lot more people apply,” he said. 

King’s Hawaiian also had a booth, where representatives were trying to recruit workers for their Hello Hilo restaurant on Jesse Jewell Parkway, which is slated to open in mid-June. They said they need about 120 workers. 

“We’ve had a lot of interest,” said Terry Spicer, director of community relations and development for the California-based company, which is building an $85 million production plant in Oakwood. 

Contrary to popular belief, young people are eager to work, said David Conner, the drive-thru service manager for Hello Hilo. 

“It’s completely not true,” Conner said, adding that when there are worker shortages they can usually be blamed on low pay. 

“Kids are much more informed now,” Conner said. “More ambitious.”