Connecting Mountain Area jobless with employers

mvoorhis@sierrastar.comMarch 18, 2014 

At the ninth annual Job Fair, sponsored by Madera County Workforce Assistance Center, an estimated 100 job seekers took the opportunity to spend last Thursday afternoon completing applications, dropping off resumes, and chatting with representatives from area employers — all looking to hire.

It was a win-win for everyone. Employers had the chance to meet with several qualified candidates, while job seekers had the option of having an on-the-spot and personal talk with prospective employers.

"Our Job Fair was a big success this year in that we were able to connect the jobless with area employers, who are currently hiring," Workforce Business and Career Specialist Jorge Espinosa said. "Workforce staff work hard to achieve this goal all year-long through vocational training, On-the-Job training contracts, and assisting with job search."

Mountain Area residents expressed gratitude for the chance to meet with a number of employers, gathered in one location.

Beth Clark of Ahwahnee was looking for something part-time in retail, after losing her job in 2013 when she became ill. Rayford Roberson came dressed in suit and tie, hoping to land a work in sales and marketing. Colleen Brown, who hasn't worked since September 2013, applied for front desk and sales positions with The Pines Resort. While Julianne Warmerdam is presently employed, she came to support her sister, Sharon, who was interested in cashiering work.

Employers greeting the eager applicants included Tenaya Lodge, Delaware North, and The Pines Resort, all of which were looking to fill a variety of positions from food and beverage to housekeeping and front desk; Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad, which has openings for gold panning, sales clerks, museum attendant and grounds maintenance; and The Redwoods, which has positions available for groundskeeper, housekeepers, guest services and front desk.

"I've received several good applications for the two seasonal gardening positions we have," Rebecca Dedekian, Human Resources for True Value Home Center said. "It's been a good turn-out."

Mike Wilson, a Workforce client, was enthusiastic in his praises. He hasn't been able to run his business, Jersey Dogs, since 2009, when he had 3,400 pounds dropped on his hand. Following five surgeries, Wilson is ready to get back to doing what he loves, and has Workforce to thank.

"Bertha (Vega) is awesome. She has been such a big help," Wilson said. "I begin culinary classes at Institute of Technology in Clovis soon, and will also have the opportunity to take a couple of business classes. Bertha is helping me relaunch Jersey Dogs. People just don't realize how many helpful programs Workforce offers."

Jason St. Laurent, who has taken advantage of Workforce services in Oakhurst, not only appreciated having local resources, but added that "Jasna (Hendershott) has been a tremendous help in career guidance."

Other agencies, who partner with Workforce and participated in the fair were Central Valley Opportunity Center, which offers solar and class A truck driver training to qualified applicants, as well as welding, general business classes, and cooking; and the Employment Development Department, which offered information on filing for unemployment benefits, and also made brochures available covering Veteran Services.

The Workforce Assistance Center, located at 40325 Highway 41 in Oakhurst, as well as the main office located in Madera at 441 E. Yosemite Avenue, assists workers through retraining and job placement. Services include job skills assessment and development, career coaching, vocational and On-the Job training, services to individuals with disabilities, as well as assistance in obtaining a GED.

The organization also offers direct placements, and is currently working with Madera employer, Verallia Glass Plant (Avenue 12 and Road 24), which is looking to hire 30 production workers at $16 per hour. To pick-up an application, visit Oakhurst's Workforce office (in the Department of Social Services building), or contact Jasna Hendershott, (559) 683-6263 ext. 207.

For those unable to attend the Oakhurst event, Workforce will host another Job Fair in Madera, 9 a.m. to noon, Thursday, March 20, at the Pan American Community Center located at 703 E. Sherwood Way in Madera. Job seekers can also go to to register with Workforce and access job listings.

Starbucks donated coffee, Vons and Raley's contributed refreshments, Mission Bell Winery provided wines for the raffle drawings, and two employers in Madera (A-1 Trucking and Mosqueda Farm Labor) made monetary donations to help with both events.

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