Wednesday, December 31, 2008

'A Soup Line for the Unemployed'

The line at the jobs fair was impressive and depressing>

What was intended to be a happy little jobs fair for young professionals at the Roanoke Civic Center yesterday turned out to be something altogether different: a virtual soup line for the unemployed, desperate for work.

These were not the peach-faced recent college grads for whom the fair was intended. They were line workers, ex-military people, mothers looking to supplement household income, older professionals "downsized," and a few from the target audience. I talked to a lot of people who sounded desperate and defeated, not hopeful as a job fair would implicate. Travis Kent, a former military guy who was filling out a random application, said, "It's hard out there right now." Young, fresh Heather Beckner, looking for "anything I can find," had just talked to Wachovia. I asked if she would be interested in trying ad sales and gave her a business card for FRONT.

Steve Haynie had just stopped by Orvis where HR Manager Marie Greer admitted, "We've just finished our busy season" and there aren't any jobs available right now, but she wants some applications for future reference. Steve took a form and walked off to fill it out. There's hope in the form if not in the reality.

When I got there, shortly before the doors opened at 9 a.m., there was a line from the door, running up the steps and out to the road in front of the exhibition hall. Impressive. Depressing.

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