By Shirley Hawkins
SOUTH LOS ANGELES — Sporting their best business attire, hundreds of job seekers attended the third annual Harvard Park Job Fair at Jackie Tatum Harvard Park Oct. 12.
Sponsored by Eighth District City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, the job fair was held to connect local residents with nearly 1,000 job openings. Positions ranged from child care to construction positions in the hospitality industry.
“We know that a quality job can change a person, a family and a whole community,” Harris-Dawson said. “I want to create as many opportunities for residents to change their lives.”
According to statistics, South L.A. has some of the highest unemployment and underemployment rates in the city.
Recruiters eagerly chatted with candidates with several employers hiring job seekers on the spot.
Caregiver Rosetta Hewing, who had been looking for work since August, strolled the tables of recruiters and interviewed with several home care agencies. She hoped that one of them would contact her soon.
“I was a live-in caregiver,” said Hewing, who added that she was also raising her 12-year-old granddaughter. “My 95-year-old client passed away and her family sold the residence, leaving me homeless.”
Hewing said she received help from the Homeless Outreach Program Integrated Care System to find temporary housing.
Gina Johnson, a recruiter with Dynamic Nursing Services, based in Sherman Oaks; said that Hewing appeared to be a promising hire.
“We work with seniors and there is a great need for caregivers right now,” Johnson said, adding that potential candidates must undergo a background check. “Hires have to do light housekeeping, give clients baths and take them to appointments.”
John Harriel, a division manager superintendent with the Morrow Meadows Corporation, an electrical company, strolled around the fair seeking candidates interested in electrical work.
“I’ve talked to five guys already,” said Harriel, who said that his company is willing to hire and train local job seekers.
Harriel added that Morrow Meadows workers helped to build the Baldwin Hills Kaiser facility.
“The employees who worked on the project were 100 percent local hires,” he said, adding that the company is involved in building the $2.6 billion Rams and Chargers stadium in Inglewood that is scheduled to open in 2020.
“Candidates have to have the right attitude and be drug free,” Harriel said. “I’m willing to get you into a career if you are willing to do what it takes to get into a career.”
Linda Bradley, senior recruiter of operations for Amtrak, said the company was seeking electrical and sheet metal workers, plumbers and electricians. “We’re also looking for candidates who want to be train conductors,” said Bradley, who added that the company offers an eight-week training program for candidates interested in a conducting career.
Bradley said that Amtrak is a great company to work for.
“Most employees don’t leave. They stay with us until they retire,” she said.
Recruiters with the city of Los Angeles said that they were offering on-the-job training for a number of civil service positions, including vocational workers, office trainees and office services assistants, administrative clerks, custodial workers, garage and maintenance assistants, gardeners, garage attendants and maintenance laborers.
“For the first six months, we offer on-the-job training,” said one city recruiter. “The second six months is a probationary period. After 12 months, the candidates are promoted to full civil service positions. Interested candidates can apply on the city’s website.”
The Los Angeles Hospitality Training Academy is offering free training in the hospitality industry.
“The hospitality industry is the largest employee in Los Angeles County,” said recruiter Denise Edwards. “We offer two apprentice programs — one for the culinary industry and one for room attendants. We’re looking for servers, bussers, bartenders, dishwashers and cooks.”
Edwards said that dozens of hotels are being built in Southern California at a rapid rate and that the need to train personnel is a top priority.
“They’re getting ready for the 2028 Olympics so we have to fill 10,000 jobs within the next several years,” she said.
Former Eighth District City Councilman Robert Farrell, who serves as a consultant for the Training Academy, is working for Vulnerable Populations Outreach program whose purpose is to get more candidates hired from South Los Angeles.
“We are looking for more diverse people to come into the industry and we are reaching out to the black populations,” he said.
Hathaway Dinwiddle, a general contracting company, was seeking candidates currently enrolled in the trade unions. “We’re looking for carpenters and apprentices,” said a Dinwiddle recruiter, who added that the company was currently in the midst of constructing the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in Exposition Park.
Job seeker De Shawn Wiggins drove from Compton after hearing about the job fair on the radio.
“My wife just had a baby and we have two other kids,” said Wiggins, who has been unemployed for a year. “I’m looking for any job opening that’s available so I can get myself back on track.”
William Wiley, 23, was seeking a job as a playground supervisor for an after-school program and had visited several child care agencies at the site.
“I’ve coached young kids before and I’m kind of like a big kid myself,” Wiley said. “I like being able to give knowledge to kids and to see them learn and grow.”
Zhane Simpson, 23, was seeking a job in the construction field.
“I want to be a carpenter,” she said. “I signed up with a few companies here, but I want to enroll in a carpentry training program.”
Her friend, Lauren Burch, 28, a McDonald’s employee, said, “I’m looking for anything that’s open, but I’d like to work with children because I have previous experience.”
Burch was pleased with the job fair.
“Everyone’s been nice,” she said. “They provided a lot of information, were very knowledgeable and the recruiters had a welcoming spirit.”