Unemployed and $30,000 in debt, Tyeshia Porter went to the job fair looking to launch a career as a massage therapist.
C.J. Rowe had just lost his job at Prestige Mustang and needed something else.
Tony Taylor was looking for a higher paying job, after Chicos in Winder switched staffing companies and left him making a dollar less an hour.
Dexter Knox was looking to get back into manufacturing.
Jamaica McCann-Bell was just looking for something new.
All of them came from Walton County to the Congressional Job Fair in Covington, where over 50 employers were looking for new employees. Several of them rode the free bus from Monroe and Social Circle to the event.
None of them were hired on the spot, but most of them walked away with some sort of clue of where their careers might lead in the future.
Porter, 28, lives on Midland Avenue in Monroe. She doesn’t have a car, so she has to walk everywhere. She’d lived in Birmingham, Alabama for several years before coming back to her hometown of Monroe to take care of her sick mother a few months ago.
When Porter was 21, she’d battled uterine cancer, which not only saddled her with debt, but also derailed her attempts at an associate’s degree in dietary science.
Since moving back, she’s applied for numerous jobs in downtown Monroe.
“But I wasn’t hitting on anything,” she said.
Ever since she was in middle school, however, she’d been massaging family members, especially her grandmother, who had osteoarthritis.
“It would always seem to help her,” Porter said, “So that’s what I want to get into, helping people with my hands.”
Rowe is a car guy, he said. His dream is to work on a mechanical side for a car racing team. But after losing his gig at Prestige, he’s just looking for anything.
He passed out 11 of his 15 resumes and plans on following up with most of them.
“A lot of these places want college degrees, which is unsettling,” he said, since he only has two years of college.
Still, he’s optimistic about a few of his chances. “I talked to Master Rack and they told me to go apply online, which I will,” he said.
Taylor was even more optimistic after making the rounds at the fair. He was looking for jobs doing machine operation.
“I talked to Express and Wagner (both staffing services) who gave me some good thoughts on things and General Mills as well,” he said.
“Those were the three who basically let me know I’d probably be working in two or three days.”
He has plenty of experience, having worked for Leggett & Platt, several warehouses in the area, and Elite Storage, so it’s not surprising he was in demand.
Neither his previous employer nor his current, part-time position at Sky Collision paid enough for him to pay his bills.
“I’m trying to better myself and get a good job and get on the right road,” he said.
Knox had just left his job at a dog breeding company and was applying to a variety of manufacturing jobs.
He’d been laid off by Walmart in the mid-2000’s, so he was skeptical about some of the things he heard from the employers at the fair.
“A company can tell you anything, but you really don’t know what it’s like until you get in the door,” Knox said.
Still, he applied for jobs at Dart, Walmart and Versence.
McCann-Bell works for a staffing agency inside General Mills, where she helps inspect cereal on its way out the door. She’s tired of it.
“Warehousing really isn’t where I want to be at,” she said.
But unlike some of the other attendees, she’s only 20 and plans on getting more education. She came away from the fair planning on going to Athens Tech to pursue welding, nursing or a commercial driver’s license.
“I want something that’s going to be a career and not just a temporary thing,” McCann-Bell said.
Porter came away with similar ideas. She couldn’t find anything that involved massage, but she did learn about nursing education opportunities at Athens Tech in Monroe, which she can walk to.
She thinks she’ll try to get her certified nursing assistant degree soon.
“I just need something to move forward,” she said.