Caterpillar, understandably, had the most popular booth in the early hours of the job fair given the company's stability and plans to have 510 full- and part-time jobs.
Allen Unger, a human-resources official, said Caterpillar is ramping up the machinist side of operations as the foundation and flooring work is completed.
Rusty Davis, the plant manager, has said Caterpillar will hire up to 120 machinists. The company projects reaching full production at the plant by early 2014, operating around the clock in the machinist side and two shifts in the assembly side outside scheduled maintenance breaks.
"We prefer five or more years in experience with machinery, along with computer skills and blueprint reading, but we will hire entry-level positions for those with a two-year associate's degree," Unger said. Entry-level hires will go through a six-week orientation period for machinists.
Refuting the argument that math skills learned in high school don't have real-world applications, Unger said machinist applicants also need a "good working knowledge" of geometry and trigonometry.
"Given the competitive nature for machinists in this area, we're certainly not in a position to cherry-pick our hires," Unger said.
The crowded aisles brought a pleased smile to Keith Grandberry, chief executive and president of the Urban League.
Grandberry preaches to people seeking employment and job-training assistance that they "have to create opportunities for themselves because it's still a very tough job market."
"It's not hard to encourage employers to come to our career fair because they know many of the job seekers here have gone through our program this week and may be better qualified than those they see at a typical job fair," Grandberry said.
"Conversely, the job applicants know that many of these employers are not just talking about hiring, but are serious about it. They know that the employers know that by attending our programs, they have a leg up on the competition."
That's what Cynthia Moir said she's counting on in finding a health-care counseling job. She worked 26 years for Forsyth Medical Center before taking another job in April. The new job, however, fell through, dumping her into the job market.
"The Urban League taught me how to better present myself, brand myself, sell myself to employers," Moir said. "I've already made three good contacts for next week, so I am on Cloud 9 about my chances of getting hired."
David Waugh is hoping that putting a face with a name at the job fair eventually will make him stand out in employers' data bases. He said he has applied with many of the employers actively hiring with little response to date.
Waugh came to the Triad in 2005 as part of Dell Inc.'s set-up crew from its Lebanon, Tenn., computer-assembly plant. He was affected by one of the first major Dell job cuts in 2009, but was hired back as a contract worker until the plant closed in November 2010.
He said he chose to stay here because he has two school-age children and his family "loves the area."
"I'm looking for a steady job because I'm tired of draining down our savings and tired of having to depend on unemployment benefits," Waugh said.
"I'm hoping that my skills will work well in particular with Caterpillar, so I would be willing to take a contract job with them just to get my foot in the door."
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