Goodwill’s second annual EmployABILITY Career Expo started mid-afternoon with a long line of underemployed or unemployed people wrapped around the Pine Log Road facility. The crowd, however, seemed unfazed by the wait and eager to meet the dozen employers sitting inside.
“If you need a job, it’s worth the wait,” said Zaundra Lively, who stood in line for almost 90 minutes before making it inside. “I have resumes right here ready to go.”
Lively drove 23 miles from Williston, S.C., looking for a job to either supplement or replace her current job at a health care supply chain company. Lively, who’s been on the job hunt for several months, said she needs work that is more constant and not seasonal.
“I’m very optimistic about it,” she said of the current job market. “I know it’s slow but there are things out there if you’re willing to give it a try.”
In the first hour alone, Aiken Goodwill Community Director Jennifer Hart estimated about 200 job hunters came through the doors.
The career expo was held in October to coincide with National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Although the event focused on helping people with disabilities or barriers to employment, anyone was welcomed to attend, Hart said.
“A barrier can be anything from no employment history to generational welfare to a physical or mental disability to criminal history,” Hart said. “There’s a wide array of reasons that an individual might have a more difficult time finding sustainable work at a liveable level.”
Employers, such as Bridgestone, Zeus Industrial Products, Domino’s Pizza, McDonald’s and Aiken Regional Medical Center, participated in the expo.
At Aiken-based Dumpster Depot, part of the company’s mission is to hire people who have had previous problems gaining employment, said founder Norman Dunagan.
“We’ll hire someone with, say, a felony or someone who has had a drug charge as a background,” he said. “We use our company as a ministry to try to help people who are having a hard time.”
Dumpster Depot was started about a decade ago and provides waste removal services for commercial and construction businesses in metro Augusta. The company of about 17 employees also diverts more than 50 percent of collected waste from landfills. Dunagan said his business has less than a 4 percent turnover ratio.
Twice-retired North Augusta resident William Bourne said his biggest barrier to work has been potential employers finding him too qualified.
The 55-year-old retired last year after working 17 years as a regional HR manager for Morrison Management Specialists and said he was open to taking any job that would keep him occupied.
“I miss the day-to-day interactions with individuals,” he said. “I miss the challenges. I’m still way too young.”