Sunday, October 21, 2001

Remember 9-11-01

Laid-off workers
find help at job fair

Businesses offer opportunities
at the Convention Center

By Lisa Asato

Honolulu travel agent Rocky Ramirez said he is optimistic about finding a job.

"Time is on my side," said the 26-year-old. "This is just a setback, that's all."

He is one of thousands of Hawaii residents let go in the economic fallout from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the East Coast.

"My company had to lay off around 80 people," said Ramirez, who was winding his way through a job fair yesterday at the Hawaii Convention Center that featured more than 40 businesses.

Dressed in aloha shirt and slacks, Ramirez said he was avoiding the tourism market and aiming for stability.

"I'm just looking at it from an industry perspective," he said after leaving the City Bank booth. "Certain industries are safe to go with. The city and county is one, banks are another. ... Home Depot is stable and has potential for growth. I'm going there next."

Home Depot was looking to fill six part-time positions for cashiers and sales associates at its Honolulu store. TeraBiz did on-site interviews for its open positions in accounting and software application training. And others like Enterprise Rent-a-Car simply collected resumes.

"We're expanding right now. We opened a new office this month," said Enterprise human resources supervisor Dee Lim. By midday, Lim had collected about 25 resumes from the 80 or so people who stopped at her booth. Enterprise hasn't been hurt as much as others in the tourism industry because it relies more on local customers, she said.

Friends Gail Slawson and Nicole Perez-Clough both lost their high-level positions two weeks ago at Viata Online Inc., which, among other things, provides software for hotels and travel agencies.

Slawson, who was the company's chief information officer, printed out business cards to hand out to prospective employers. It listed her career objective and the address of her online resume.

Perez-Clough had a mixed review of the fair. "This is absolutely wonderful," she said, adding that she hadn't seen many jobs offered at her level in the tech industry.

The former director of Web operations and development at Viata said she hopes to find a job in three months, and is optimistic that the economy will rebound in the first quarter of 2002. "I do expect a frenzy of rehiring when this dies down and people are flying again," she said.

The fair, dubbed "Operation Oahu WorkLinks," also offered social service booths, online job searches, one-on-one job referrals with Oahu WorkLinks staff, and workshops ranging from "Job Loss and Family Coping" to "The ABCs of Unemployment Benefits."

More than 14,000 people had filed claims for unemployment insurance between Sept. 17 and Thursday.

Charles Cabus was looking for mechanical maintenance work, but admitted that "it boils down to whatever is available."

The United Airlines mechanic was laid off Friday. Because of his seniority, he was offered a position elsewhere but turned it down because he misinterpreted the offer. He said he and his wife, Kathy, don't have children, which makes things easier. But, he added, "I haven't had to look for work for over 13 years, so it's tough."

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