JOLIET – A job fair Monday at American Legion Post 1080 offered a look at who’s seeking work and who needs workers.
The dual job fair was designed in part for veterans and in part for the public. Many of those attending were older workers saying they hoped to break through what they saw as age discrimination in the job market.
“What was helpful was a ray of hope. I didn’t get a lot of no, no, nos,” said Andrew Watson of Joliet.
Watson is a truck driver and Army veteran looking for a line of work that would allow him more mobility. Sitting in a truck on long hauls is hard on his legs due to a spinal injury, and Watson would like to do something different. But he thinks employers are wary of his health and age.
“Usually, once they see that stick and that limp, they kind of shy off a bit,” Watson said. “I don’t feel disabled. I just turned 56. I think I have seven or eight more years of work in me.”
The 35 employers at the job fair included some who needed to fill openings. Attendance was light in the first two hours.
Xerox Corp. is adding 50 people to the existing staff of 300 at its customer call center in Bolingbrook.
“We’re starting a training class each week,” operations manager Brandon Cobb said.
The Cook County Sheriff’s Office came to Joliet looking to fill openings for correctional officers. And Turano Baking Co. in Berwyn was looking for full-time production and packaging workers.
Even the State of Illinois, despite its budget problems, was there.
The state does have job openings, said Carlos Charneco, manager of the Diversity Enrichment Program for the Department of Central Management Services.
“You have to keep institutions running,” Charneco said. “The Department of Corrections is probably going to hire 300 people. The Department of Children and Family Services is hiring investigators.”
Charneco listed other departments hiring, too, and said the state does have a veterans preference hiring program.
Hired and hopeful
Jeremy Spencer of Manteno, who served in the Air Force from 2008 to 2012, got a warehouse job while mingling as he worked the event as a volunteer.
“I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t come here looking for a job,” said Spencer, who was hired to work at an XPO Logistics warehouse within walking distance of his home.
Many of the job seekers Monday, however, were looking for employers willing to hire older workers.
Cathy Berkos is facing the expiration of a COBRA plan and is looking to return to nursing.
“I’m not eligible for Medicare for another three years,” said Berkos, who lives in Plainfield Township.
Berkos’ husband, Terrence Berkos, an Army veteran, died in January. Berkos said she believes she has encountered age discrimination in her job search this year, but also got what seemed to be a good lead on a nursing job Monday.
Frankie Green of Joliet said she worries that she won’t be able to find work when her job, which she got through a four-year senior employment program, expires next year.
“I’ll be 70 in two weeks. Who’s going to hire a senior?” Green said.
Kankakee County Community Services Inc., which provides senior employment services in Kankakee and Will counties, was there to offer some answers.
The agency works with seniors, directing them to low-cost training programs and providing other assistance, said Adriana Smith with Kankakee County Community Services.
“When they’re building their resumes we try to help them build their skill set to enhance their experience to show employers that because these individuals are older it does not mean that they are wanting in skills,” Smith said.
Hilbert McNeal, 63, of University Park, is a client of Kankakee County Community Services, and he was able to leave his résumé with a prospective employer.
“They told me they’d give me a call,” McNeal said.