By Ron Leir
Out of work? Looking for a better job? Not sure how to promote yourself in the job market? Then you may want to check out the upcoming Job Fair co-sponsored by the town of Kearny and the North Hudson Community Action Corp. (NHCAC), slated for June 27, from 5 to 8 p.m., at the Kearny Public Library, 318 Kearny Ave.
As a prelude to the main event, Library Director Joshua Humphrey led a resume writing session on June 19 at the library.
Mayor Alberto Santos said that while the nonprofit NHCAC’s primary forte is delivering clinic-based health care, it also has organized, within the past year or so, job fairs in North Bergen and Secaucus – something that’s “never been done in Kearny, at least since I’ve been mayor,” which is nearly 12 years.
Santos said the expectation is that, “while some (of those attending Kearny’s job fair) will be placed in jobs, most will not,” but he added that, at the very least, participants – whether they are “unemployed or underemployed” – should be able to learn how they can improve their job skills or “job-getting” skills.
Santos said that he’d judge the Kearny event to be “successful” if residents come out with nothing else but “improved resumes and confidence” that they can find a job.
As of last Thursday, the NHCAC had lined up 29 regional area employers who are currently signed up to send representatives to the Job Fair and they’ll be looking to fill “mostly entry-level jobs” in their respective firms, according to Santos.
Among the mix of employers who’ve agreed to participate are corporations, such as NJ Transit, the Veterans Administration, Hertz Corp., Dish Network and Aflac; retail stores, including Home Depot, Walmart and Sears; banks, home health care agencies, hotels and private employment agencies.
Like other communities in the region, Kearny has been hard hit by the national recession: Data from the U.S. Dept. of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the town’s unemployment rate escalated dramatically, from 4.3% in October 2007 to 12% in March 2009 and climbing to a peak of 13.6% in February 2011.
Showing signs of a possible recovery, by March 2012 the jobless rate had dropped a bit to 11.6% and in April (the most current fi gure available) to 11.1%, a bit worse than the countywide average of 9.9%.
Two major Kearny employers were apparent casualties of the slack economy: the Pathmark on Passaic Ave. with 129 workers and LJ Kennedy Trucking on Schuyler Ave. with 42 employees. (An unknown number of supermarket workers were offered transfers to other Pathmark stores.) The Kardinal Diner on Harrison Ave. also closed.
“Kearny companies are not doing as well as we hoped,” said Kearny Urban Enterprise Zone director John Peneda, “but there’s light at the end of the tunnel. (The economy) is starting turn around slowly.”
Peneda sees signs of a potential local rebound and new job opportunities with the relocation of Bindi Dessert Services’ corporate offi ces, from Totowa to Kearny, on Belleville Turnpike; an expansion of Walmart and the anticipated opening of a Wawa/ gas station, both on Harrison Ave; a new mixeduse residential/ retail (CVS) development on Schuyler Ave. near the Harrison border; construction of a 7Eleven store at Schuyler and the Pike; and three new tenants signed for River Terminal in South Kearny.
Still in the works, he said, is future retail growth at the industrial park tract owned by DVL Inc. on Passaic Ave.
Christopher Irizarry, president/ CEO of NHCAC, said that by organizing job fairs, the hope is that “you help job applicants build interview skills and also, that you connect the right employer with the right job seeker. In Hudson County, we have many hardworking individuals who are excellent candidates for jobs.”
As evidence that people in Hudson are hungry for work, just look at last week’s open house hosted by NHCAC for a single manufacturing firm looking to fill 150 job slots, suggested NHCAC’s Olga Velez, the agency’s job placement director. “We had 300 people come,” she said.
New Jersey Dept. of Labor and Workforce Development, focusing on its eightcounty northern region, which encompasses Hudson County, charts the biggest job growth, between March 2011 and March 2012, in the areas of “trade, transportation and utilities,” with retail trade alone accounting for an increase of 4,300 jobs in the region.
Other fi elds experiencing more modest growth, according to NJDLWD, were professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, fi nancial activities and other services.
In Hudson County, the home health care industry “is defi nitely looking for people,” Irizarry said, “since the turnover rate is pretty high.” With just a few weeks’ training and state certifi cation as a home health care aide, an individual with only a high school diploma can “get a good introduction into the work force” and, perhaps later, study to become a medical assistant or nurse.
Among the employers who will be participating in Kearny’s job fair are 10 home care agencies, Velez said. They are looking for qualifi ed people to care for cases “ranging from dementia patients to DYFS (state Div. of Youth & Family Services) referrals,” she added.
Nursing is another job in demand, Velez said. “Hospitals are always looking for R.N.s and we will have Bayonne Hospital, Palisades Medical Center (in North Bergen) and Christ Hospital (in Jersey City) represented at the job fair.”
Banks are seeking tellers; large retailers like Walmart want folks willing to work late shifts, in particular; and private security fi rms are also hiring, according to Irizarry and Velez.
Some advice for residents planning to attend the Kearny job fair, as offered by Velez: “Dress professionally, bring lots of resumes and be willing to travel (to a prospective job).”
And, although no preregistration is required, Santos cautioned people to “get there early because we expect a large crowd.” Similar job fairs in North Hudson communities have drawn several hundred people at each event, Irizarry noted.
Over the past two years, the agency has helped more than 700 North Hudson residents fi nd new jobs through the job fairs, Velez said.