Job seekers have different needs, but just one desire

Anita Hills spent her career in nursing. She lost her job and needs another one.

Joshua Smith is working toward a software career while raising his 12-year-old daughter.

Allan Koufer is old enough for retirement. Yet at 68, he wants to work.

Renee Carter looks forward to using her new training. She can’t find a job in her field, medical coding.

“It’s harder than I thought,” said Carter, 43, of Lake Stevens.

They were among hundreds of job seekers who brought hopes and resumes to the Snohomish County Job Fair in Everett on Thursday. The annual event packed a ballroom in the Edward D. Hansen Conference Center at Comcast Arena.

The county’s jobless rate was 8.3 percent in August, according to a report released Sept. 25 by the state Employment Security Department. Those latest figures showed that in August, 31,800 people were unemployed in our county.

There’s nothing personal about a percentage. It’s hard to relate to a number in the tens of thousands. To meet face-to-face with people those statistics represent is to grasp why the drumbeat of this political season is jobs, jobs, jobs.

It wasn’t all bad news at Thursday’s job fair.

“Last year, there were 20 employers at the job fair. This year there are about 35,” said Sam Virgil, deputy director of WorkSource Snohomish County. The employment services agency sponsored the job fair, along with Everett Community College, the Washington National Guard and The Daily Herald.

“There are employers from all kinds of industries here. Most have openings,” Virgil said.

Along with large and small companies, public entities including the Everett School District, the Everett police and fire departments, and Sno-Isle Libraries were at the fair.

Looking at the crowd, it was clear that there is no singular face of unemployment. Because of that, there is no one solution for fixing the jobs problem.

Middle-aged men in dark suits stood next to young people in flannel shirts and denim, all waiting to talk with potential employers.

In a jacket and tie, Smith, 32, had the look of success, a match for his nearly completed education. In December, the Monroe man will finish a bachelor’s degree in software engineering at UW Bothell.

A single parent, Smith said his family’s support has helped him raise his daughter. He went to college after losing a maintenance job in 2009. “It’s tough at times,” Smith said.

Hills, who is 55 and lives in Arlington, worked 25 years as a registered nurse in California. She worked in hospitals and in long-term care facilities managed by a large company. After earning $36 per hour, she said her last employer replaced her with less skilled nurses earning $18 per hour.

Despite feeling what she said was “a lot of burnout” from nursing, Hills isn’t ready for retirement. Her perfect job would be working in a library, a bookstore or with animals. “At this point, I’ll take almost anything,” she said.

Carter spent more than a year in training for a medical coding job. She previously worked in retail. “I need a full-time job with benefits,” said Carter, who has a 16-year-old daughter. They live with her mother.

Koufer worked many years at a wholesale auto-parts business. He was laid off from that job. A commercial driver, he also worked as a courier. The Lake Stevens man has been out of work since April. He gets unemployment compensation. Why not retire? He’s almost 70, after all.

“I don’t want to retire. I could make it, but I want to work,” Koufer said.

Kelly Hesby is a purchasing manager at Onamac Industries, Inc., an aerospace parts manufacturer in south Everett. The company makes parts for the Boeing Co. and replacement parts for older McDonnell Douglas aircraft.

Hesby was busy at the job fair answering questions and handing out information to would-be workers.

“If I was starting my career, I would be a skilled machinist,” Hesby said. “Here, you just wish you had a job for everybody.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, muhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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