Eager reception for job hunters

Welcome: Companies and government agencies greet thousands in search of a job, or a better one.

Naacp 2000

July 12, 2000|By Meredith Cohn | Meredith Cohn,SUN STAFF

Thirty-one-year-old Derek Lewis came to the NAACP-sponsored job fair yesterday with a nice tie and a mean stack of resumes.

He was looking for a career, not a job.

"I work for a limousine company now and it's okay, but it's not what I want," said Lewis, who lives in Pikesville but is willing to relocate.

Lewis and an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 prospective employees will hit up 170 companies and government agencies at the job fair, organizers said. It runs through today and is open to the public and those attending the NAACP's 91st annual convention.

Michael J. Hall, president of Personnel Strategies Inc., which organized the job fair for the NAACP, said the same companies return each year because it's a good place to recruit talent and bolster diversity. The tight labor market also has forced companies to go looking for workers.

The overall unemployment rate was 4 percent in June, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But minorities still trail whites in employment, although education is narrowing the gap, said Tom Hale, a bureau economist.

Last year, 5.9 percent of white high school dropouts were unemployed, compared with 11.6 percent for black dropouts. But in the same year, 1.7 percent of white four-year college graduates were unemployed, compared with 2.7 percent of black college graduates. The numbers reflect only the employed and those looking for work.

The shortage of workers had some job fair companies going all out to get noticed. Many lined their tables with pens, bags, and tins of mints all sporting the corporate logo.

Sprint Corp., the long-distance and wireless phone company, went so far as to raffle T-shirts and other prizes to those who submitted a resume. The recruiters also manned a hoop and gave away 15 minutes of long distance to anyone who could make a basket.

"Anything to get people into the booth," said Rich Joyce, a human resources manager.

The employers, ranging from small Baltimore companies to major national corporations to government agencies, vied for the prospects at the Baltimore Convention Center. Some didn't have specific positions available, but were trading phone numbers with applicants, collecting applications, handing out information or referring prospects to the company Web site.

Many prospects were employed but looking for advancement or more money. Jadawn Williams, 21, of Baltimore, said she's in a dead-end job.

"Anything that grabs me here, I'm signing up," she said.

Nzinga Jones, 22, of Temple Hills, graduates from Towson University in December and wants to have a job in promotions and marketing before she gets her diploma. She had her eye on America Online Inc. and Verizon Wireless.

Willie McGirt, 23 and a recent Morgan State graduate, is looking for a job in case his professional sports career doesn't take off. Right now he has more experience quarterbacking the football team than in graphics design and advertising.

They did all believe there was something there for them.

"I have 70 resumes here," said Lewis. "I'm prepared to hand out each one."

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