Job seekers swamp employers at fair


POSTED: Thursday, May 21, 2009
This story has been corrected.  See below.

Pamela Johnson and her daughter, Shantel Santos, were both vying for jobs yesterday at Workforce, the state's oldest and largest job fair.

;[Preview]  Job Seekers Speak Out About Job Fair

For people seeking work the job fair could be either encouraging or frustrating and older and more educated job seekers were the most discouraged.

Watch ]


That mother and daughter were competing against each other and some 6,500 other candidates as they visited with some of the 125 or so companies, as well as military and government agencies at the event, is a sign of how pervasive Hawaii's economic downturn has become. The turnout was the largest of any annual Workforce fair, and second only to the emergency job fair that drew 9,000 following Sept. 11, 2001, said Beth Busch, president of Success Advertising Hawaii.

“;It's very competitive,”; Busch said. “;Last year 4,500 people came to the fair and we had 240 companies. Now, we've got about half as many companies and thousands more job applicants.”;

But, the good news is that even with Hawaii's unemployment at its highest level in more than three decades, jobs are still available, she said.

“;From the state of the economy, you'd never guess that this many people would be here hiring,”; Busch said.

Johnson, who returned home to Hawaii earlier this month after the mainland economy took its toll on her Hula Aerobics business, said she's ready for a new beginning.

“;I'd like something in sales or fitness, but I'm fairly open to whatever is available right now,”; she said.

Despite the fierce competition for jobs, Johnson said she remains optimistic.

“;It's paradise here compared to (Orange County, Calif.) where I came from,”; she said.

But it's tough here, too, said Maile Kamaunu of Honolulu, who lost two state Department of Education jobs to budget woes.

“;I lost my job at the DOE last year when it got cut,”; Kamaunu said. “;I got hired again, but the position lost its funding before I could start.”;

Kamaunu recently found part-time work and has been tapping unemployment to make ends meet; however, hope of a better situation brought her to the job fair.

“;I'm here to find something to supplement my finances,”; she said.

In this economy, though, it's clear that there aren't enough jobs to go around, Kamaunu said, as she surveyed thousands of competitors.

“;There aren't enough job openings for everyone,”; she said. “;Even if you do apply, it seems like it's going to take luck to get hired.”;

Still, companies were conducting spot interviews and hiring. Central Pacific Bank's Aida Klein, who works as a branch manager in Pearl City, put the interview rooms to good use, she said.

“;We are really finding very good-quality applicants,”; Klein said. “;There's a much larger candidate pool than in the past.”;

Sheri Nakaya, director of human resources for Jeans Warehouse, said she hired three people instantaneously. Nakaya wants to hire at least 10 people after following up on other applicants.

“;By 11 a.m., we had already gone through 500 applications. We expect 1,000 will be picked up by the end of the day,”; she said. “;This is definitely the most crowded that this job fair has been in the last seven years.”;

Job seekers also visited booths staffed by colleges and technical programs to discuss new career options.

“;We've had a lot more people contact us to tell us that they are out of work and that they want to change fields,”; said Amanda Woodall, an admissions representative at Remington College.

Those that were completely stumped stopped by for encouragement at the Society of Human Resource Management's booth.

“;Several hundred people came by for free job counseling or advice on resumes and interviewing techniques,”; said Melissa Hewett, a spokeswoman for the Hawaii chapter of the SHRM. “;People are a little bit discouraged. We helped pump them up.”;







Friday, May 29, 2009


Melissa Hewett is a spokeswoman for the Hawaii chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management. An article on Page 21 Thursday did not distinguish the chapter that she represents.