Job Fair Was a Success

22 Jul 2016

Bringing employers and potential employees together was the goal at Thursday's Summer Job Fair and the event was a clear success.

A total of 61 businesses, educational institutions and job placement specialists filled the gymnasium at McMinn County High School for the fifth installment of the popular Summer Job Fair.

"There's been a steady stream of job seekers all day and plenty of available jobs; the economy must be doing OK," said Heather Brown, College Access & Success Coordinator for Tennessee College of Applied Technology at Athens (TCAT).

The event is co-sponsored by TCAT, Tennessee Career Center, McMinn County Economic Development Authority, Athens Area Chamber of Commerce, Southeast Tennessee Development District and the City of Athens.

This is the first year the event was held at the high school as attendance outgrew the Job Fair's previous location at the Southeast Tennessee Trade & Conference Center at Athens Regional Park.

"This event has grown steadily - both employers and job seekers," said Beth Keylon, special projects coordinator for Tennessee Career Center's Chattanooga office. "With the growth and expansion in this area, these job seekers are able to find good, high-paying jobs from a great variety of employers, and it allows them to find the position they're really looking for.

"Tennessee Career Center in Athens, McMinn County EDA and TCAT deserve the lion's share of the credit for putting this together; we've formed a really good partnership," continued Keylon. "They continue to outdo themselves every year."

If Thursday's Job Fair is any indication, the local job shortage of a few years ago has all but disappeared.

"It's a pretty good indication of what's going on in this community," said TCAT Workforce and Grant Coordinator Scott Packett. "We've got more jobs than people to fill them; and that's a good problem to have."

This year's record number of participants surpassed last year by more than 15 business and organizations.

"The number of employers here today shows the need for good workers," said McMinn County EDA Director Kathy Price. "Local unemployment is at an all-time low; the tables have turned from a few years ago and now, employers need to find employees."

The employers in attendance at the Job Fair covered a significant stretch of the Interstate 75 corridor.

"This is a truly regional event," said Price. "We have employers here from Chattanooga all the way to Loudon."

The Job Fair is the culmination of months of planning among multiple entities, all of which have a primary role in local workforce development and job placement.

"This is another great example of working together; a wonderful team effort for a great cause to benefit the community," said Athens Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Rob Preston. "I really enjoy working with these organizations, and it's obviously working because the Job Fair grows every year."

The "everything under one roof" strategy of the Job Fair has proven effective for employers and employees, alike.

"I'm overwhelmed by the number of participants," said Rita Brown, human resources director for the City of Athens. "It shows how many great opportunities there are in this community."

Among the participants at the Job Fair were two Athens industries in the midst of expanding their operations- DENSO Manufacturing Athens Tennessee (DMAT) and E&E Manufacturing.

"This event is an excellent way to find fresh faces for the opportunities we have to offer," said E&E Human Resources Manager Melissa Tullock. "We're expanding and hoping for lots of new applicants."

"I've talked to a lot of good candidates today," said Katelyn West, AR Specialist at DMAT. "I hope some of them will fill the upcoming jobs at DENSO as we continue to expand."

And, perhaps most importantly, the Summer Job Fair matches many of its guests with high quality jobs and opportunities.

"This has been really helpful," said job seeker Ethan Wilbanks. "These companies will probably find better people who took the initiative to come down here."

"Everyone here has been very nice and helpful," said job seeker Jasmen Perry, "and it's saved me time and the gas money of having to drive to sixty different business."

A group of generous donors helped keep costs at a minimum in providing breakfast and lunch for the employers.

"We are state-funded organizations and we absolutely could not do this so inexpensively for this many employers without all the generous donations," said Brown.

Hardee's donated more than 100 biscuit sandwiches for breakfast. Lunch was donated by Walmart, McDonald's, United Grocery Outlet/Bargain Barn, Aaron's and Firehouse Subs, as well as cookies to snack on courtesy of Athens Mayor Ann Davis and Kathy's Bake Shop. McMinn County High School even agreed to waive its event fee to host the Job Fair.

"It's been great to have free rein over the best facility in McMinn County," said Brown.