Shavannah Cotton, who has been without a steady job since 2005, echoes a common refrain among local job seekers: The jobs just aren”t out there.
“I”ve put in applications everywhere, and it seems like no one wants to call … It”s just really hard to find a job,” said Cotton, 23, of Columbus.
In the meantime, Cotton volunteers and uses the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. She has filled out seven or eight applications since the end of last year, looking for work at cleaning services, restaurants and other areas.
With the state”s unemployment rate in the double digits, it”s a common assumption that jobs just can”t be found. But local employment agencies” listings tell a different story. Jobs are there. They just need to be matched to the right candidates.
The Golden Triangle WIN Job Center in Lowndes County has 43 job listings and a total of 93 openings listed on its website alone, ranging from production to landscaping to mechanic.
The CPI Group, a private staffing agency, has about 22 positions listed at its website, ranging from temporary and customer service to executive-level jobs. Wise Staffing Group, also a private staffing agency, has 10, ranging from cashiers to engineers. Key Staff Source, another private agency also has several positions that run the gamut, from industrial to clerical and professional.
But what seems like a plethora of jobs on the agencies” end hasn”t translated into employment for job seekers.
“Most everywhere you apply, they ain”t hiring,” said Clyde Bingham, 38, of Eupora, who was among the people at the WIN Job Center looking for work Friday morning. Bingham, who works in landscaping during spring and summer months, has filled out 14 applications and inquired employers in auto mechanics, carpentry, painting and plumbing.
Donisha Jefferson, 22, moved back to her hometown of Starkville from Lousiana about three years ago.
“I”ve been everywhere (looking for work),” Jefferson said, noting she has filled out 40-50 applications in the past year. ”Everything is slow. Everything is real slow. It”s like at a standstill … In a way, I want to go back to Lousiana, because I know I have a better chance getting a job there.”
With all these jobs out there, why can”t job seekers seem to get hired?
In Cotton”s experience, it”s hard to get a job unless the applicant knows someone within the business.
Employment agencies also advise job seekers to apply for jobs with lower salaries than they might expect, research and apply for jobs for which they are qualified, don”t get discouraged and train for the current job market.
“Part of it is, people need to lower their salary expectations,” said Billy Hamilton, branch manager at the Golden Triangle WIN Job Center. “Just get your foot in the door, and once they get in there and show the employer what they can do, the raise will come.”
Job seekers also should do a little leg work themselves, said Meagan Coughlin, the operations coordinator for The CPI Group, a local staffing agency.
“We know there are qualified candidates out there, and a lot of them come through our door, but we know there are more out there,” Coughlin said.
The CPI Group uses an online application and fills job orders based on skills listed in the application and on candidates” resumes. Sometimes candidates do not list their skills, making it impossible to match them to a job description.
“They could still be a qualified candidate,” Coughlin noted. “We just won”t ever know.”
Hamilton agrees, now more than ever, job seekers are empowered to “match themselves” to the right job.
“It”s so simple that, if you go into our system and just put in your information with your zip code and no miles constraints, you could see every job we have listed in the state,” Hamilton said, noting individuals also can search for jobs nearby.
“We are able to match people, and some people can match themselves, from home,” he said. “Then, we can give them referral instructions on how to apply for the job they found.”
Though Wise staffing has listings at its website, applicants must fill out an in-house application between the hours of 8 a.m.-10:30 a.m. or 1-3:30 p.m.
“Our problem is, we do have jobs coming in, but the jobs are specialized and they want specialized skills,” said Lori Richardson of Wise Staffing. “It may take longer to fill that position with, say, a person with past experience in slitting steel. We may have some that come in and say they”ve done it for three to six months and think that”s good enough, whereas, our clients are looking for at least two years experience.”
Richardson said job seekers can be placed as early as the following week and as long as 30 days later.
“We have been very busy lately with job openings, and when we get those job openings, we try to fill them with applications we have in the office,” she said.
The CPI, similarly, keeps applicants in a “bucket” to look through as the company receives new job orders.
“With the unemployment rate at 10 percent, there”s more people out there looking for a job that would be considered qualified (candidates),” Coughlin said, encouraging job seekers to fill out applications available through employment agencies.
Hutchins says job seekers should not get discouraged; Key Staff fills positions for a range of people, from the longtime unemployed to first-time job seekers.
“We”re seeing a lot of growth in the area and a lot of industries coming back,” she said. “The staffing industry usually sees that before the community as a whole.”
Hamilton also recommends getting additional training, to gain marketable skills.
“I think maybe some people need to go back and get retrained,” he said. “For example, a lot of garment operations have gone out of business, and there”s not the need for those machine operators.”
Those people, said Hamilton, should retrain for current industry.
The WIN Job Center offers limited grants for training, with the bulk of the funds being distributed in July, when its fiscal year begins.