Make us your home page

Thousands jam job fair in downtown St. Pete

An estimated 4,500 job seekers on Wednesday packed the Coliseum, where about 50 employers were hiring.


An estimated 4,500 job seekers on Wednesday packed the Coliseum, where about 50 employers were hiring.

An overflow crowd of thousands of job seekers streamed through the aisles of the Coliseum in downtown St. Petersburg.

Behind the booths at Wednesday's job and career fair were employers like Community Health Solutions, Wilger Liaison Co. and PODS saying they were eager to hire.

Matching them up? That was the rub.

Though Tampa Bay's unemployment rate is among the highest in the state at 12.6 percent, some employers say it's still a challenge finding suitable people for open positions.

Wilger Liaison, which tests products for safety, was trying to hire four engineers and eight electrical lab technicians. But company founder and chief executive Gerard M. Plank Jr. said finding the right fit hasn't been easy, so he turned to the job fair after other advertising was unsuccessful.

Laura Rice, a recruiter with Community Health Solutions of America, echoed that her company has been highly selective in vetting potential hires, hoping to find employees who will last. The managed care company has 22 positions to fill, everything from a claims manager to triage nurse.

"We go through a rather rigorous hiring process," Rice said, with applicants screened for behavioral tendencies and taking a Wonderlic test to gauge problem-solving skills.

Exasperation went both ways.

Christine Donar, 19, said she's been unable to find even part-time work since graduating from Gibbs High School in June. As she filled out an application for TradeWinds Island Resorts, she indicated that one of the problems is companies prefer someone with experience.

Jonelle DeBlanc, who was laid off in October as office manager of a Biloxi area salon and spa, drove from Mississippi to St. Petersburg in her job quest. With a college degree and a long resume filled with experience in entertainment and management, she was hoping for a little more once she arrived.

"I can't believe I drove 10 hours for this. Highly disappointed," DeBlanc said. "It's either you need to have a master's or be willing to work for like $5 an hour or go to school. There's nothing for people in the middle."

One of the companies touting the most openings was PODS, the Clearwater-based moving and portable storage company.

Elizabeth Stockman, PODS senior recruiter, said the company is ramping up to hire up to 250 more call center workers and train them in time for the busy season that begins in June. But there was no guarantee of long-term employment. Post-busy season, PODS historically ramps down again.

Wednesday's surprisingly large turnout forced operators to temporarily close parking lots adjacent to the Coliseum midmorning, making available parking spots a premium.

Among the throng: Harold Tourjee III of Fort Pierce, who graduated with a degree in information technology in December. He wants to relocate to the bay area to be near his fiancee. "It's difficult out there," Tourjee said while standing in line at Lockheed Martin's booth. "There's tons of people looking for jobs and just not that many available."

About 50 companies and colleges were represented.

Job fair organizers, which include the St. Petersburg Times, estimated the turnout to be at least 4,500, or up to 1,000 more people than the last job fair at the Coliseum in the fall.

Thousands jam job fair in downtown St. Pete 01/12/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 12, 2011 9:41pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Miami woman, 74, admits to voter fraud. Does jail await, or will she go free?

    State Roundup

    MIAMI — An 74-year-old woman pleaded guilty Monday to filling out other people's mail-in ballots while working at Miami-Dade's elections department.

    Gladys Coego
  2. Bigger ships carry Georgia ports to record cargo volumes

    Economic Development

    SAVANNAH, Ga. — Bigger ships arriving through an expanded Panama Canal pushed cargo volumes at Georgia's seaports to record levels in fiscal 2017, the Georgia Ports Authority announced Monday.

    The Port of Savannah moved a record 3.85 million container units in fiscal 2017, the state said, benefiting from the larger ships that can now pass through an expanded Panama Canal.
  3. Dragon ride in Harry Potter section of Universal closing for new themed ride


    Universal Orlando announced Monday that it will close Dragon Challenge for a new "highly themed" Harry Potter ride to open in 2019 — sending wizard fans into a guessing game with hopes for a Floo Powder Network or the maze from the Triwizard Tournament.

    Universal Orlando announced Monday that it will close Dragon Challenge on Sept. 5 for a new "highly themed" Harry Potter ride to open in 2019. The ride, originally the Dueling Dragons roller coaster, was renamed and incorporated into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter when the hugely popular area opened in 2010.
  4. Would you let your company implant a chip in you?

    Working Life

    Would you ask an employee to get a chip implanted in her hand? Sounds invasive and intrusive. But come Aug. 1, one company in Wisconsin will be giving it a try.

    Three Square Market - a developer of software used in vending machines - is offering all of its employees the option to get a microchip implanted between the thumb and forefinger. [Photo from video]
  5. Daniel Lipton resigns as artistic director of Opera Tampa


    TAMPA — Daniel Lipton has resigned as artistic director of Opera Tampa, the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts announced.

    Daniel Lipton became the artistic director and conductor of Opera Tampa in 2012. Lipton replaced the opera's only previous director, Anton Coppola, who retired. [Times file (2012)]