About 500 turn up for jobs fair

Published 8:36 am Friday, December 4, 2009

FRANKLIN—Hundreds of International Paper Co. employees, as well as several other interested jobseekers, turned out Wednesday for the Manufacturing Career Fair at the Paul D. Camp Community College Workforce Development Center.

Randy Betz, vice president for workforce development at PDCCC, said attendance appeared constant for the 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. event, and estimated that about 500 job seekers attended, of which about 90 percent were International Paper Co. employees.

“I thought it was well received by the participants who attended,” Betz said Thursday. “I got positive feedback from the companies who were represented here. Many companies walked away with quite a few applications of highly qualified job candidates, and I was very happy to see that.”

Jacqui Tilley, a human resources official with MeadWestvaco Corp., said her company was looking to hire 75 production workers.

“I thought the turnout was very good,” Tilley said Wednesday. “It was especially good to have to before and after shift changes at the (Franklin) mill. That way we had time to talk to people.”

Tilley said the company brought nine of their employees to the fair to talk with job applicants, and estimated that they spoke with 60 interested workers.

Ryan Whitehead, who works on the No. 6 paper machine at the Franklin mill, was one of them.

“I thought (the fair) was very positive,” Whitehead said, adding that he was most impressed with MeadWestvaco, which runs a paper mill in Covington, Va. “I’ve talked to most everyone here, (and) they’re the ones that stood out. I think they’re looking to hire several people.”

Whitehead said finding an employer in a familiar field that is offering a comparable rate of pay was a plus.

Asked if he would move his family to Covington, about 250 miles and more than four hours from Franklin, Whitehead said yes.

“We’re willing to relocate,” he said.

Jimmy Beale, a 61-year-old from Carrsville, is staying put.

“I’ve been here all my life,” Beale said. “I don’t like moving.”

Beale, a machinist for IP and a worker at the mill for 38 years, said he visited many of the booths at the job fair but was very interested in two: Colonna’s Shipyard Inc. of Norfolk and Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding in Newport News.

“There’s jobs out there for me to get, I just need to go out and get one,” Beale said.

Tony Lane, who has worked at the mill for 32 years, agreed.

“I think this has been a really positive event,” the 51-year-old welder said. “It’s good to have people come here and take a look. We’ve got a whole lot to be thankful for.”

Other employers who set up booths at the job fair included Rayonier Inc., Boise Inc., IBEW, Smithfield Foods Inc., the Hampton Roads Sanitation District, Smurfit-Stone Container Corp., Potomac Supply Corp., BAE Systems and Georgia-Pacific LLC.

Additional booths were set up for the office of U.S. Rep Randy Forbes (R-Va.) and the U.S. Social Security Administration.

“I filled out an application for a Social Security card here,” Beale said. “That saved me a trip to Suffolk.”

Betz said another job fair would be held at the Workforce Development Center next year, possibly the third or fourth week of January.

“We’re putting that together now,” Betz said.

Asked if he would go to the next job fair, Beale said “probably, if I’m not working someplace else by then.”

The job fair was sponsored by the three labor unions at the Franklin mill, IP, PDCCC, Opportunity, Inc. and the Franklin-Southampton Area Chamber of Commerce.