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Why 70-plus employers showed up to job fair struggling to fill positions
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Melissa Riker, a recruiter with Spherion, speaks with a job seeker during the Fall Job Fair and Career Expo at the Gainesville Civic Center on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018. - photo by Austin Steele

Angelia Stephens said she was looking for a new job because she’s getting older and doesn’t want to be working as hard this late in life. She’s 46, but as a medical assistant with Atlanta Gastroenterology Associates, she travels more than she wants to.

“It’s just about better pay and not traveling,” said Stephens, who has her husband and four children at home. “That’s the only reason I’m really wanting to look is to not travel.”

She was among many others at the job fair hosted by the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce at the Gainesville Civic Center on Saturday, Oct. 13. More than 70 employers showed up including KubotaMars Wrigley ConfectioneryMcDonald’sNorth Georgia Canopy ToursDeep Roots Landscape and Wash Rocket, all looking to fill open positions.

“We’ve got lots of employers hiring lots of people,” said Kit Dunlap, chamber president. “And it’s the first Saturday one. Generally we have this during the week, and it’s tons of people. We may get a little different audience.”

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Attendees interact with employers during the Fall Job Fair and Career Expo at the Gainesville Civic Center on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018. - photo by Austin Steele

With potential employees walking through the maze of tables and pipe-and-drape, employers stood holding company information and business cards, answering visitors’ questions.

One of the newest employers in Gainesville, Del Taco, was tucked into the corner of a side room. The restaurant, which serves tacos, burritos and nachos along with burgers, plans to open in mid-December.

General manager Bilal Siddiqi and assistant manager John Lisenbey sat at the table under a company banner emblazoned with the Del Taco logo, waiting for someone to stop.

Eventually, a woman did, asking what positions they were looking for. They are looking for six managers to go through a five-week training course. She didn’t feel she had enough experience, but Lisenbey told her to take an application anyway since they’d be hiring for 60-70 other positions soon.

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Job seekers talk with employers during the Fall Job Fair and Career Expo at the Gainesville Civic Center on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018. - photo by Austin Steele

Del Taco is having trouble finding applicants after only a handful of people showed up to the last job fair it attended. Not many applications are coming online either.

“I mean it’s great, people have a job and that’s a good thing,” said Siddiqi, who recently moved from New Jersey which he said never a shortage of applicants. “But for us, it’s going to be very tough. ... It’s a process and it takes time. It’s just a process we have to go through.”

According to the Georgia Department of Labor, as of August 2018, Georgia’s unemployment rate was at 3.8 percent while Hall County’s was at 3 percent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the national unemployment rate is 3.7 percent.

“The unemployment rate is so low, so it’s kind of like we’re trying to compete to get the candidates and it’s kind of hard to find them,” said Ale Garcia, operations manager with Axiom Staffing’s on-site Kubota location. “We still have candidates come in daily, but the struggle is there.”

Many employers at Saturday’s job fair shared that sentiment. Businesses are struggling to fill positions because many people already have jobs they’re happy with.

That wasn’t the case for Logan Smith, 28. He’s working part-time as an English instructor at the University of North Georgia and Lanier Technical College, but is in need of something more steady, preferably in human resources, as his family grows.

“I’m just scoping it out,” said Smith, who was sitting in a suit, filling out his first job application of the day. “I’m just looking for anybody that will take my resume.”

He handed his resume to a few of the staffing agencies at the job fair and was hoping for the best.

King’s Hawaiian was looking to talk with candidates like Smith in hopes of filling as many positions as possible at its bakery and distribution center in Flowery Branch.

“It’s a struggle finding the right candidates for the position,” said Athenee Pollard, recruiter with King’s Hawaiian. “And you may find them, but because it’s a candidates market right now, if they are offered an extra $2 an hour somewhere else, they’re going to go.”

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