Job fair today seeking hundreds

Seasonal and career positions to be filled

4 p.m. start in Columbia

August 25, 1999|By Zanto Peabody | Zanto Peabody,SUN STAFF

Some of Howard County's biggest and newest retailers are going shopping today.

Nordstrom and Victoria's Secret join 26 other shops in the search for qualified people to fill hundreds of positions in the retail sector. The Howard County Employment and Training Center's Retail Job Fair aims to put employers and job seekers face-to-face.

The job fair begins at 4 p.m. at the Maryland Job Service office, 7060 Oakland Mills Road in Columbia.

Skilled laborers and workers in highly specialized trades, such as e-mail administrators, are accustomed to gathering in meeting halls to schmooze with potential employers at information booths. The teen-ager who sells cargo pants in a mall, however, usually filled out an application in the store and got a call back a few days later to report to work.

But this is Howard County, where the unemployment rate is a state low, under 2 percent, and where first-time telemarketers are lured from Baltimore to work at Arbitron for entry-level pay of $12 an hour.

"It's a major opportunity for people coming in because they will see a tremendous number of opportunities, a melting pot of employers in one place," said Stefanie Barrett, assistant manager of Casual Corner at The Mall in Columbia. "It is an opportunity for us, too, because we can look at people who are interested in the retail careers, from someone looking for something seasonal in sales to people who are interested in management careers."

The idea for the job fair was born from a tight job market with the expectation of intense holiday season hiring and new stores opening at The Mall in Columbia and elsewhere in the county. The mall is scheduled to open a wing anchored by Nordstrom next month.

"It's the first time we've done this for the retail community alone," said Cheryl McClenney, marketing coordinator for the Employment and Training Center. "Everyone is gearing up for fall and Christmas hiring and wondering where all the employees will come from."

The training center tasted success with retailers during a teen job fair in June.

"We just had a rush of teens coming in, more than 150 in the first hour and a half," McClenney said. "Most of them came out with a job. Most of those jobs were in fast food and retail, so it was similar to this."

McClenney also hopes to use the success of the job fairs to promote the ETC, which sponsors day-to-day job placement in addition to high-tech and semiannual general job fairs. The center often does the work for area placement agencies, she said, referring job seekers to employers who have paid the agencies to find workers.

"We want to cut out the middle man," she said, "and turn [employers] on to our free services."

Information: 410-312-5770 or 410-313-4600.

Pub Date: 8/25/99

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