THE MATCH GAME: Pairing employees with employers is a challenge

Carl Hall of Clovis applies for a job Wednesday at the Clovis Civic Center. (CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks)

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

Three years have passed since Lasonia Grissom of Clovis received her degree in criminal justice. Her long search for a job in her field ticks on and on, and continued Wednesday at the Clovis Civic Center job fair.

Immaculately dressed, Grissom scouted dozens of booths set up by potential employers at the civic center.

The fair — hosted by the Clovis Department of Labor and sponsored by a league of local entities, among them the Clovis Community College, the Clovis Industrial Development Corporation and the Clovis Chamber of Commerce — marked the first event at the newly completed civic center.

“The job market,” Grissom said, “is lacking (in Clovis), especially in my field because people don’t leave until retirement. … I don’t want to leave (Clovis),” she added, “because my family is here.”

Grissom said the job fair evoked a glimmer of hope.

“It’s nice to see all the different opportunities,” she said, scanning the room, where more than 70 business representatives peddled brochures and relayed information about job opportunities available within their companies.
Business representatives hailed from a potpourri of industries, including retail, agriculture, medical, carpentry and law enforcement.

Many in attendance said hooking skilled and dependable employees in the region is a challenge.

“We have difficulty,” said Amber Folk, Dillard’s assistant store manager. “Our biggest problem,” she said, “is dependability, finding people who want to make a career of it.”

For Warren Woodward, general manager of the Clovis SEI call center, recruiting is also uphill. The center, whose clientele is chiefly fast-food restaurants, opened in December. Thirty-six people are employed there, said Woodward, who would like to see that figure almost double by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, Clovis resident Samuel Perez, 21, is so disheartened by lack of employment opportunities in Clovis, he plans to move from the city of roughly 35,000. He has had a string of labor- intensive jobs and went to Wednesday’s fair hunting for something different.

“I don’t want to work at McDonald’s forever,” Perez said.
Linking those eager to be employed, such as Perez, with those eager to employ, such as Woodward, was the goal of the fair, according to Clovis Community College Career Services Coordinator John Hansen.

“There are a lot of skilled workers in Clovis,” Hansen said. “They just don’t know who is hiring.”

Unemployment rates in Clovis hover around 7 percent, according to data provided from multiple government and commercial sources listed on www.city-data.com. The national average is about 2 percentage points lower, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Web site, www.bls.gov.

“We are trying,” said Clovis Civic Center General Manager Neil McMullin, “to aggressively build the economic landscape of the community.”

That economic ambition, McMullin said, was broadcast clearly Wednesday, as the job fair secured the landmark spot as the first event to be held in the 29,000-square-foot building.

“Employers from outside Clovis need to know they can fill their jobs if they were to locate here,” McMullin said.