Niles job fair gives job leads, but questions remain for GM workers
By Ed Runyan
Employers came to Eastwood Mall on Wednesday from as far away as North Dakota. One offered wages and benefits similar to what GM Lords-town workers make, and one of the area’s most prominent employers – Vallourec Star – saw a line of interested workers at its table.
“How nice this is,” said Linda Lucente of Youngstown as she traveled through a section of about 50 manufacturing companies whose representatives were manning tables in the mall’s main concourse.
About 130 companies were there from noon to 4 p.m. for the Northeastern Ohio Job and Career Fair sponsored by the OhioMeansJobs centers in Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana counties.
Lucente said she lost her job in production management at Magna Seating, which made seats for Lordstown’s Chevy Cruze before the GM plant was idled March 6. She’s hoping to find something similar and was impressed with the number of manufacturing companies there.
The focus of the event was dislocated workers, especially people like Lucente who are impacted by the idling of about 1,500 workers at the GM complex and its suppliers.
Kim Barrell, Trumbull County OhioMeansJobs administrator, said she estimated about 250 job seekers came through the job fair in the first hour.
“The employers are excited. They are coming from all over,” she said. Representatives from the Fiat Chrysler plant in Toledo “have been here two times already trying to get people from GM,” she said.
Fiat Chrysler representatives provided job descriptions for six types of jobs that have openings, including electrician and production supervisor, and several jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree involving coaching and mentoring.
A steady stream of job seekers kept two human resources employees from Vallourec Star busy at their space. The company is mostly looking for product operators, said Kelsey Harvey, human resources recruiter.
She could not say how many open positions there are, but “we are actively recruiting,” Harvey said.
“We’re here in complete transparency for the GM workers who are displaced,” said Jennifer Bellucci, who works in human resources for U.S. Steel’s Mon Valley Works near Pittsburgh. “That’s what attracted us.”
The company has “union-represented jobs that come with full benefits and competitive pay,” she said. U.S. Steel also has a plant in Lorain. One of the job sheets provided indicated hourly base pay rates range from $22 to almost $30.
Ken Bell of Garrettsville said he had never been to a job fair like this, but he lost his job at Magna Seating and said a conversation he had with a representative from a company in Streetsboro that makes hydraulic pumps left him “very hopeful.”
“I found one place that is really looking for people,” he said, adding the representative seemed “like he would have hired me on the spot. There are quite a lot of places looking for workers.”
Three GM Lordstown workers stood talking near tables and displays for companies. One of them, Sam Jordon, said the job fair impressed him with the number of manufacturing companies that have jobs available.
“It all comes down to we have no answers,” GM worker Bob Ashley said of their future with GM.
“We just want to know what the future is for the plant,” added GM worker Tim Remias. “We want to know what to do with our lives.”
The fair wasn’t just useful for the recently laid-off workers. Some individuals laid off from the second shift last April still haven’t found work. Many of the workers who didn’t immediately take unemployment benefits are now running out of funds.
Dave Green, president of United Auto Workers Local 1112, said the 1,500 workers laid off from the second shift have to make many of the same hard decisions their recently laid-off peers are facing.
“For some of those folks, going back to school is what they’re going to do, advancing to some further level of education. Others are transferring,” Green said.
Contributor: Staff writer Graig Graziosi