Employers link up with vets, other job-seekers

OLYMPIA - About 265 people attended a job fair Thursday at the Olympia National Guard Armory that featured employers with job openings.

It was the fourth consecutive year in which homeless veterans in the area were invited to come get a hot meal and a shower and receive warm clothes and supplies. About 18 homeless veterans took part in the “stand down job fair,” which was fewer than last year because the weather has not been as cold, said Travis Sayers with the state Department of Veterans Affairs. The job fair, which was organized by Thurston County WorkSource, was opened to all job seekers in the afternoon.

More than 30 employers, including The Evergreen State College and Intercity Transit, took part, sharing information about upcoming job openings. Next month, IT will have four to eight entry-level bus driver positions available, said Shannon Hofstetter, a human resources analyst at IT. The positions will start at $15.41 an hour in 2010, she said. About 50 people stopped at the IT booth Thursday, including a surprising number of people interested in becoming a bus driver, Hofstetter said.

With unemployment at more than 7 percent, Thurston County’s economy isn’t as slow as the statewide economy, which has 9 percent unemployment, state Employment Security Department data show. Although the job fair emphasized employers with jobs to offer, finding a new job has remained elusive for many.

Single parent Edwin Delaney, 37, lost his job with the state Department of Social and Health Services in February because of budget cuts, he said. Delaney, who has a background in business and computer information services, said his skills probably could help find him a job in a larger market, but he wants to stay in Lacey and hasn’t given up trying to land another job with the state.

Liz Gauthier of Denver, who hasn’t had a full-time job for 18 months, decided to visit the job fair because she is visiting family in Tumwater. She said the job market is better here and that weekly unemployment benefits are about 50 percent higher than they are in Colorado. Gauthier said she found the job fair useful because she got a tutorial on how to apply for a state job.

“I’ll never get hired if I tell you my age,” the former executive assistant said.

Terry Rivett, 57, of Shelton has been unemployed for 45 days. For eight years, she ran her own business selling incontinence supplies to the elderly, but changes in the economy forced her to close the business. Rivett since has applied for 20 jobs, and no one has called her back.

“I’m a little afraid,” she said.

Homeless veteran Jason Jackson, 45, who is from New Orleans, spent all day at the Armory. Although a bad back has prevented him from working, Jackson used the time to make phone calls. He is staying at the Salvation Army in Olympia, but the Veterans Administration recently approved him for subsidized housing, he said.

“I’m still homeless but it’s looking up,” Jackson said.

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403