13th annual job fair draws 1,600

Published 12:05 pm Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Andrea Gibson is 29 years old, has a master’s degree and work experience — and she has been unemployed since June.

On Tuesday, Gibson was among 1,600 job-seekers at the 13th Vicksburg Area Job Fair, and she’s hoping it will lead to a paycheck.

Gibson was laid off from the Mississippi Department of Health in June. Her master’s degree from Jackson State University is in behavioral health promotion and education, and Tuesday she found a potential employer at the Mississippi Children’s Home Services booth.

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“I was born and raised in Vicksburg, and ever since high school I’ve known that I want to be in public health,” Gibson said. “I don’t want to have to leave Vicksburg to do that. I want to serve my community — Warren County.”

Tara Marler, the MCHS community outreach coordinator, met with Gibson and explained how her agency works and that it operates a crisis shelter in Vicksburg that deals with adoptions, therapy, alcohol rehabilitation and intensive residential services.

“It’s my field, it’s what I do,” Gibson said. “When I heard crisis center, I knew I was going to visit its website and call to make sure they get my resume.”

The MCHS was one of 59 employers taking applications Tuesday, down slightly from 61 last year, said Job Fair Network Director Joe Buckner. He also said about 2,000 people attended the 2009 fair. This year’s attendees, he indicated, were more intent about finding jobs.

“Over 400 people were waiting to get in the fair at 9 a.m. when the doors opened,” he said. “That shows that people are more serious than ever.”

Fletcher Hawkins, an admissions coordinator for the SEC Training Center in Flowood, said he’s had an employer booth at the Vicksburg Area Job Fair since about the time it started. Each year, he said, he’s at the fair recruiting people to enter training and eventually become professional truck drivers.

He said his firm has hired about 100 people through the Vicksburg Area Job Fair. He expected Tuesday’s fair to add to that number.

“About 30 people came to the booth in the first hour or so, and out of those, we will hire somewhere between 10 to 15,” said Hawkins. “Vicksburg has been great as a source to find employees… We will keep coming in the future.”

Buckner said that over 400 job offers were made at this year’s fair, and considers it a success in a market of 11.9 percent unemployment, compared with 10.4 percent in 2009.

After discovering a possible job and making progress toward employment, Andrea Gibson also said the fair was a success.

“You have all of these employers in one centralized location, and you’re really able to get your name out there,” she said. “I’ve really liked it, but hopefully I’ll be employed soon and won’t have to come next year.”