The event featured 18 employers with numerous job opportunities available
By Charlie Sprang
The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 360 recently held its inaugural job fair and the event was host to 18 employers and a steady stream of job applicants.
Among the employers were five different Shop Rite groups and Simmons Foods, Rite Aid and companies in the healthcare field, and several service companies. Even though its employees are represented by the Teamsters union and not the UFCW, UPS was also present. All came with numerous job opportunities according to Helen Ireland, Director of Community Affairs for UFCW Local 360.
“Sometimes we’ll do a job fair for one or two companies, but this is the first time we’ve done with multiple companies represented here,” Ireland said. “There are over 1000 jobs available. There’s just not enough people to go around.”
The job fair, which was at the local’s West Berlin office this past Friday, was conceived by Helen Ireland, who literally woke up one morning with the idea, cultivated it on her commute to the office and presented it to her boss, Local 360 President Sam Ferraino, who liked it and gave her the okay to run with it.
“The first thing I had to do was get the companies on board,” Ireland explained. “I started in July and reached out to multi-types of businesses.”
To get the word out, Ireland said they relied heavily on social media – circulated the link to the event via text messages and email blasts, shared the message through the Local 360 Facebook page and Facebook advertising.
Applicants registered upon entering the meeting room which had employers at tables that completely encircled the room. At one of the Shop Rite tables sat Donna Sheridan and Debbie Schilling representing Zallies Stores which has seven locations in lower Camden County and Gloucester County. Ferraino pointed out that Shop Rite stores across the region have numerous openings that have been difficult to fill.
“I’d say my stores are down about 70 people per store,” he explained. “They can’t get employees. With three percent unemployment people are just shifting job to job.”
Sheridan echoed that sentiment but added that people are also opting to go to college or get job training to work in computers. “There are not enough people out there for these types of jobs,” she said.
Jason Aunspaugh, Human Resources District Leader for Rite Aid, was seated at the table next to Zallies. He was offering opportunities as cashiers, shift supervisor and pharmacy technician.
“We are currently hiring full time and part time,” Aunspaugh said, adding that Rite Aid did provide training for anyone interested in a pharmacy technician position. “We do find these fairs to be helpful because there are still people who don’t have access to computers and the internet, and they have to find resources another way to find employment.”
Shane Sharp said he learned about the job fair from his father. He recently turned 26 so he is no longer eligible to be carried on his parents’ healthcare plan. He was looking for full time employment that provided benefits.
“I’m not looking for anything specific and I did talk to three companies,” Sharp explained. “Simmons has a couple of openings, but you need experience and I don’t have any. They did tell me they would have something opening up for me in a couple of weeks. I will be following up with them.”
Brenda Brucon was in a different position. She had worked at Parx Casino for 30 years but was recently laid off. This was her first job fair and she was trying to get the lay of the land.
“I didn’t have anything specific in mind but I know I don’t want to be a cashier and so many jobs at this level are,” said Brucon who had talked to two companies in the short time she was there and was still making the rounds to see what else was available.
About an hour and half into the four-hour event, a steady stream of applicants was making their way through the door. Ireland and others from Local 360 were busy answering questions and directing job seekers to tables.
Her idea had caught on.