STRASBURG – Local job-seekers visited Strasburg High School in droves Thursday for a college and career fair that turned into a job fair later that evening.
The Shenandoah County Chamber of Commerce partnered with more than 20 local businesses to offer a hub for students and adults looking for full and part-time work.
Earlier in the day, the gym was filled with 19-20 colleges and another 22 businesses for high school juniors from Strasburg, Central and Stonewall high schools to visit with before participating in mock interviews.
Chamer Executive Director Sharon Baroncelli said she was pleased with the turnout for both the career fair and the job fair.
“We’ve heard from a few businesses that they have a good handful of applications,” she said. “We are hoping to connect the job seeker with the job provider.”
Men and women ranging in age and experience braved the rain Thursday evening to come out and look for work.
Some, like Megan Billhimer, 27, of Strasburg, were looking for jobs where they can move up the ranks. Billhimer, who is a stay-at-home mom of four children, said she was excited to talk with so many businesses and see how many local opportunities there are.
“This was a really great; I didn’t even know half these companies were around,” she said. “You get so much info from this stuff and so many opportunities here.”
Beth Shalap lives in Winchester but traveled to Strasburg to look for administrative or other clerical work.
“My recent job experience has been for a foundation and for my sister’s construction company,” she said. “My youngest is a fourth year at UVA…so I’m looking to re-enter the workforce.”
Neal Jacob, 49, of Front Royal, said finding a job close to home is important to him.
“I wanted to apply to places locally. I don’t want to drive to Northern Virginia,” Jacob said. “I definitely want to find a local company. That’s what was very attractive about the job fair. I knew there would be local companies.”
Jacob and Billhimer are both not working, but have a wide range of previous experience.
Jacob said he has worked in retail, sales and information technology. Billhimer, in addition to raising four children, said she has worked in health care and food service but hopes she can start to branch out.
Work experience is all some applicants need to get in the door with Katie Hazel, a dual branch manager for United Bank in Strasburg and Woodstock.
“We’re here today because I have positions open in my office,” Hazel said. “I’m looking to see if we can get some good local people in to help grow our brand in the community.”
Pulling local employees into the office is important to United Bank, Hazel said, because they know their communities better than anyone.
“We are a local community bank, we do span over five states but we like to be the local community bank,” she said. “We like to get out in our communities and get involved in our communities, and we find the best way to do that is to sometimes recruit people who are already active in their communities.”
For those without any work experience, and those who might not be able to get themselves to work, companies like George’s in Edinburg were looking for a wide range of people.
Ryan Lyburn, housing coordinator and Virginia recruiter for George’s, said they want to hire around 30 production positions as well as class A CDL drivers, plant supervisors, administrative assistants and human resources positions. Drivers and supervisor positions require previous experience but production jobs are open to anyone, Lyburn said.
“In regards to our production, we will train you,” Lyburn said. “So you never have to have a worry there if you’ve never worked in poultry before.”
Baroncelli said the chamber had a couple of wrinkles to work around but overall, she said, the event was a success.
“It’s the first time we’ve done this in the evening and in Strasburg, so we had two new hurdles,” she said. “Then we had the rain…but we’ve got some serious job seekers, which is nice.”
Correction: A quote in the story "Local employers connect with local job-seekers" on B15 on Saturday has been updated to read: “My recent job experience has been for a foundation and for my sister’s construction company.”