Job seekers and employers congregate at Woodstock job fair

Bryan Sherfey, of Woodstock, left, chats with Ingrid Thompson, right, a supportive employment specialist, about jobs with Shen-Paco Industries in Mount Jackson during the Shenandoah County Chamber of Commerce Job Fair held Tuesday at the Woodstock Armory. Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK – Employers and job seekers traded business cards and resumes Tuesday morning in the National Guard Armory in Woodstock.

The Shenandoah County Chamber of Commerce’s annual job fair comes amid a climate of unusually low unemployment rates. In December 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rate was 4.1 nationally, 3.6 statewide, and 3.0 regionally.

Despite these low numbers, however, job seekers made a strong showing Tuesday. Sharon Baroncelli, the chamber’s executive director, estimated that 150 people seeking employment attended the event.

For Dylan Tanner, 19, of Woodstock, the opportunity to meet employers face-to-face was much more desirable than searching online.

“This process helps me be more aware of what’s out there,” Tanner said. “Because it’s easier to have someone present themselves to you than having to actively look for them online, because there’s so much stuff online. It would probably be hard to find some of these specific companies.”

John Jacobs Jr., veteran employment representative, chats with Aaron Wright, of Winchester, during the job fair. Wright recently completed a tour in the U.S. Air Force. Rich Cooley/Daily

Forty employers representing an array of industries set up recruitment tables at the Armory on Tuesday.

City Bank branch manager Erin Ebersole said the job fair also helps employers better communicate what their positions entail.

“We’ve had the opportunity to explain to people more of what we do, and they don’t realize that their experience applies to what we do,” Ebersole said. “People think, banking: you have to be really good at math, or you have to have cash-handling experience. Well, not necessarily, because sometimes we’re looking more for customer service, or somebody who’s good at sales.”

People at the event sought a variety of career types — several students from Central High School picked up applications for after-school work with McDonald’s and George’s Inc., and said they wouldn’t have known those jobs were open for kids their age if they hadn’t attended the fair.

Others sought more permanent positions. Bryan Sherfey, 27, of Woodstock, returned to the area from college when he learned he was going to be a father, and took a bartending job to support his 1-year-old daughter. Now though, he’s looking for a career that better accommodates family life.

Jaileen Olivevas, 21, of Mount Jackson, gets a handshake after visiting a booth during the job fair on Tuesday. Rich Cooley/Daily

“I was bartending, but I had to get away from that just to get away from the weekends and nights, and spend more time with my daughter … In this area, it’s hard to find something that’s long-term,” Sherfey said. “Now I’m looking for something’s that more of a structured, more career-wise setting.”

Aaron Wright, a Winchester native, is also a father looking for a steady job to support his family. Fresh off of seven years of service with the Air Force, Wright came out Tuesday to scope out supervisor or management positions to help support his wife and three kids.

“I got a bunch of leads, cards, and I dropped off a bunch of resumes,” Wright said. “There are definitely so many different things that I can do. It’s a great opportunity.”

One group largely missing from the job fair was students from Lord Fairfax Community College, Baroncelli said.

Still, Jaileen Oliveras, a business and administration major at LFCC, was one of the few who did come to the fair Tuesday. She came armed with an arsenal of resumes and spoke with representatives with the Grafton School, where she hopes to work part-time while finishing her degree.

“Shenandoah is a really good job source for people, especially college kids,” Oliveras said. “I know a lot of people don’t come to job fairs, because, you know, they don’t think that great of it, but I think it’s a great opportunity.”