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Lots of applicants, but where are the jobs?

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Some people who advertise for help are shocked at the number of people who apply.

By PENNY FLETCHER

SOUTH COUNTY — Some people who advertise for help are shocked at the number of people who apply. It makes you aware that the unemployment figures being reported aren’t a real number. They don’t include those whose unemployment checks have run out, or those who didn’t qualify for them.

Two weeks ago there was one opening for a sales clerk in a thrift store. In the first two days after advertising the position, there had been 83 responses.

By the time I got around to interviewing Jay Sparkman who had run the ad two days after that, the number was above 90 and still climbing even though the position had already been filled.

The job was for the Nearly New Thrift store which is a project of the Interfaith Council of Sun City Center and uses its proceeds for charitable causes.

In the summer the store is only open Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Still, that did not deter applicants. They wanted anything they could get.

“The stories I heard were pretty depressing,” Sparkman said. “People with four kids, out of work. Saying they would do anything.”

They came in all ages, from teenagers to the elderly, Sparkman- who serves as the president of the Interfaith Council- said.

The week before that I had a talk with Therese Monaghan who does the hiring for The Alley at SouthShore in Riverview. She showed me a box full of applications and told me she gets between 50 and 75 every 10 days to two weeks.

But that wasn’t anything compared to what I learned from Kim Scott, human relations manager for Caspers Company that operates 50 McDonalds restaurants across Tampa Bay, seven of which are in the South County/Brandon area.

“We had a Hiring Day in April and did face-to-face interviews with almost 9,000 people, around 200 per store,” Scott said. “It was amazing. They were so glad to really get an interview. Most of the application processes now are on line, or where you just fill something out and leave it. We’re always taking those, but this was different because they actually got to talk to somebody.”

Scott said Caspers has noticed a lot of change in the last three years. There has been a much lower turn-over and there have been a lot more applicants at all 50 stores.

“Kids get their start at McDonalds. They get their first jobs with us and learn about working,” she said.

But now many retirees and older people have those jobs, and Scott said she notices a greater availability with older workers.

“They have sort of edged kids out of their part-time and summer work because older people who are out of work need more hours. They are also able to work more flexible hours.”

Scott said they also see many retired people who cannot live on their incomes and work at least part-time.

While less turn-over is good for companies, Scott said she is sorry that more teens aren’t getting the experience first jobs can give them.

There are some fields though where there is a higher demand, said Melanie Morrison, executive director of the new SouthShore Chamber of Commerce that began its merger of the Ruskin and Apollo Beach chambers July 1.

“The seasonal companies are doing very well, like the air conditioning industry in the summer. But I’m seeing pet grooming and care do well too. People have to take care of their pets. Bars usually do well in a poor economy but lately I’ve seen some of those struggling.”

Child care facilities on the whole are doing well when people are out looking for work, she said.

“Whenever a big company chooses our area like B&M Precision in Ruskin or when Sam’s Club came in, we make a big deal over it because they provide so many jobs,” Morrison said.

Health care is a big leader in hiring.

Natalia Diaz, marketing director for South Bay Hospital, had quite a bit of advice to offer.

“Currently we are seeing a high volume of applicants in entry level positions and new grad RNs. Positions that are high in demand are pharmacists, pharmacy techs, laboratory, and rehabilitative therapists. We have also seen that it takes longer to fill positions at the director level. We think this may be because during these economic times many people are playing it safe and choosing to stay at their current jobs longer, so the pool of candidates is much smaller.”

Diaz suggested that anyone interested in obtaining work in the health care industry contact a local hospital and inquire about volunteering, internships or shadowing opportunities.

“It could also be beneficial to contact your local universities and community colleges to find out what the prospective opportunities in health care will be in the future,” she said.

With Baby Boomers turning 65 at a rate of 7,000 a day for the next 19 years- a figure supplied by the AARP in an interview in April- health care looks like a good bet for a long time to come.

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