By RICK HAYES
MT. VERNON — —
Hundreds of job seekers packed a banquet room at the Mt. Vernon Holiday Inn on Tuesday night, seeking employment opportunities during a Job Fair.
The event was co-sponsored by the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, Rend Lake College and WSIL-TV.
Kelly Mowrer of Mt. Vernon was one of those seeking employment after her position with a medical equipment company was dissolved.
"I'm hoping to find a job," Mowrer said, who has experience in customer service, insurance sales, administrative, and clerical positions. Mowrer left with a positive outlook.
"There are a lot of insurance companies looking for sales representatives. That gives me hope," she said.
One insurance representative said he has immediate openings.
"We've got six people in our district and we've got a large district geographically. We're definitely looking to hire more people," said Brian Gibson, district sales coordinator for Aflac. "We've got a new product coming out that falls in line with health reform and it is designed to fill in the new gaps from what the new health care reform is going to take from us. It's something we're excited about but we need to get the word out. A lot of people need to see it or we have to make sure we get out there and see everybody."
Gibson emphasized that employees hired from a particular county do not necessarily have to work in that county.
"We recruit all over the the state of Illinois. If you live in Mt. Vernon, you do not have to sell only in Mt. Vernon. You can go anywhere you want. If your mobile, you can go to different places and take care of our customers.
Christian Brouillette of Benton said the job fair is an opportunity to expand his self-employed business.
"I've been working for myself the last couple of years, doing installation for CV and mechanical. I actually own the company, but I'm looking to go to a company where they provide the health insurance because this whole Obama care thing has me really scared as far as funding my own health insurance, which is going to cut into my profit," he said.
Lynn Lowe of Christopher worked in a boat factory in Franklin County that went out of business.
"I'm looking for anything I can find, just like everyone," Lowe said. "I'm trying to find a place that will fit my needs and will fit the needs for someone else."
Lowe, ironically, was visiting Lowe's prior to being interviewed.He said he is interested in fork truck work where he can use his experience in shipping, receiving and warehousing.
Lowe said his unemployment benefits are about to run out so, "That's getting a little scarce so I need to find something that will benefit me."
Another man from West Frankfort, Steve Martin, said he is currently unemployed after switching jobs from one coal mine to another.
"I went to the other one, but it didn't work out," Martin said. "I could probably go back, but I want to see what else is out there."
Nick Lemay, representative of the Small Business Development Center at Rend Lake College said the college co-partnered with the other sponsors to provide job opportunities to the public.
"The main thing we do at the Small Business Development Center is to help people start small businesses, so we help with business plans, capital projections, financials, and that type of thing. But we've also taken it upon ourselves to partner with Rend Lake College for those people who may not want to go into business for themselves, but to help them find jobs."
He added, "We've got about 42 vendors, and we hope to have anywhere in the neighborhood between 400 and 500 people."
Lemay said by having a three-hour time slot, it should benefit people before they go into work if they work the night shift and to catch those just getting off work and headed home.
The Job Fair was held from 4 to 7 p.m. While the number of vendors may have been down slightly, there was no shortage of clients. There was a steady stream of people throughout the banquet hall during the event, sometimes four- to five-deep at some exhibits.