County job fair draws dozens to New Market

Job-seekers traveled to New Market on Tuesday for a job fair hosted by the Shenandoah County Chamber of Commerce. Max Thornberry/Daily

NEW MARKET–Packed inside the New Market Community Center, 34 employers with tables, stands, fliers and posters stood ready Tuesday to attract the best and brightest Shenandoah County has to offer. Spilling out into the hallways were four more employers, ready to greet job seekers on their way in and out of the gym.

Shenandoah County has been waging a battle against unemployment, trying to fill some positions with eligible workers. The New Market job fair, hosted by the Shenandoah County Chamber of Commerce, gave employers from around the county a chance to connect with prospective employees.

Howell Metal, based in New Market, was at the fair trying to fill between eight and 10 positions, according to Jennie Vaughn.

“We are trying to fill machine operator positions and maintenance positions,” Vaughn said. “We’ve been in business for 50 years, and we’re growing, so we’re adding some folks to the team.”

Both the operator and maintenance positions are entry-level positions.

New Market Poultry is trying to fill another 10 to 20 positions, said Chris Palmer, safety coordinator at the plant.  Palmer said the plant is looking for first shift production crew members.

“We have an excellent pay rate for this area,” Palmer said, “very competitive.”

On top of competitive pay, Palmer said employees also receive benefits — paid leave, sick leave, holidays and Sundays off.

Training for other skills such as driving a forklift is also available, Palmer said.

An hour after the fair opened, Palmer said he had talked with four job-seekers.

Some employers were having a more difficult time attracting people. Ortts Electric, based in Edinburg, is seeking two employees; however, they must already be trained, said Lori Clinedinst.

“We’re a very small, family owned company looking for an experienced plumber and HVAC installer,” Clinedinst said. “They’re very hard to come by. Tradesmen are very hard to come by.”

Because Ortts is a small business, it does not have the manpower to train new employees. Clinedinst said she has been trying to fill those two positions for the last nine months.

“We’re too small to be a training company,” she said. “It would be nice if we could do that, and I’m sure at one point we can get there. But right now, we need experienced people.”

Face-to-face time was important for job-seekers as well as the employers.

Bert Merrick, 57, lives in Fort Valley and between medical issues and the Great Recession has struggled to find steady work. He said he has been bouncing around different jobs via agencies but lately has been attending job fairs on his own to get connected.

“I’m trying to not just pick up any job, but be selective and actually have a chance to talk to people,” Merrick said. “This way you’re talking to the people doing the hiring, and you can actually make an impression on them, standing right there.”

Merrick said he talked to four different companies on Tuesday — mainly trying to qualify for machine operating or forklift driving. He said he plans on applying to three of the companies he talked to, and he has an interview scheduled for later in the week.

Eric Phillips, 34, traveled from Rockingham County for the job fair. Phillips said he started working as a seasonal hire at GameStop when he was 16 and worked his way up to be a manager. When company policies changed, and he felt differently about the company, he decided to leave and expand his horizons.

“I’ve been a store manager for just over three years, so I’m looking to get into something more supervisory,” Phillips said. “I’m looking to get into something more linear rather than being a jack of all trades.”

Sharon Baronelli, director of the Chamber of Commerce, said she was happy with the turnout at the fair and was impressed by everyone coming to look for work.

“The folks we have talked with are very serious about finding a job,” she said. “It’s always nice when we can connect. Job-seekers want a job, and we have employers that need employees.”