FOLLANSBEE — Area job seekers had an opportunity Saturday to apply for positions with more than 20 area businesses and learn about free training and other services to help them land a position.
About 30 employers and agencies were on hand to accept applications or share information at the job fair held at St. Francis Centre by the Follansbee Chamber of Commerce and Business Development Corporation of the Northern Panhandle.
Among them was Michelle Miller, One Stop manager for the Weirton, Wheeling and New Martinsville American Job Centers overseen by the Northern Panhandle Workforce Investment Board.
Miller said more than 150 area job hunters have been placed at a variety of businesses partnering with the centers through its On the Job Training Program.
Through a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, the centers cover a large percentage of wages for employees hired through the program for up to six months or 499 hours, provided the hourly wage is no less than $10 for at least 35 hours per week and the new hires won’t displace a current employee.
Job hunters currently receiving unemployment benefits or without work for 13 of the last 26 weeks are eligible to participate.
Miller said the program has helped many overcome barriers to employment, from women who lack experience because they took time off to care for their children to people with minor criminal convictions.
She said businesses currently working with the program are involved in manufacturing, laundry services and other fields, and a number of workers placed through it have secured permanent employment.
“There are many success stories,” said Miller, who noted the centers also offer free job training to eligible teens and young adults, ages 14-24; and training as paid recovery coaches for people dealing with opioid addiction to individuals who have been affected directly or indirectly by the drugs.
She encouraged those interested in the programs to make appointment at any of the three centers.
The Weirton center is at the Municipal Plaza and can be reached at (304) 723-5337 between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Assistance in preparing resumes for the job fair was offered by the job centers and staff with Brooke County Schools.
Brooke County Superintendent of Schools Jeffrey Crook was on hand Saturday to share information about vacant positions in the school district.
While declining enrollment and revenue resulted in cuts to professional and service personnel this year, there is a strong need for bus drivers and substitute teachers for all subjects and grade levels, noted Crook.
The school district also is seeking a heating, ventilation and air conditioning system technician, a middle school band director and a coordinator for its Communities in Schools program
Crook noted the school district also offers opportunities for those who left school early to earn a high school diploma equivalent through its adult education program.
For information, e-mail the program’s instructor at Earl.Sturm@k12.wv.us.
Christine Piccirillo, owner of Golden Oaks Residential Board and Care, was among business leaders present to speak to potential future employees.
She said they need not have past experience, “As long as they have a desire. We’ll train them. We just need someone who is caring and patient.”
A registered nurse, Piccirillo said she had worked in the medical field for 46 years when she realized, while caring for her father-in-law with her husband, how difficult it was for the adult children caring for their parents to balance that with work and other demands.
“It can be a struggle to keep somebody at home, and we wanted to establish a place that was as close to home as possible,” she said, adding that inspired her to open Golden Oaks.
Piccirillo said her staff spend time not only assisting residents with their personal care but also walking and talking with them, so “a people person” is a good candidate for a job there.
Sandy Kemp, assistant director of the Brooke County Senior Center; Debbie Leonard, who heads its nutrition program; and Tonette Alward, director of the Hancock-Brooke-Ohio-Marshall Retired and Senior Volunteer Program; also hoped to fill positions.
Needed are individuals to provide personal care, light housekeeping and meal preparation for senior citizens in their homes and drivers to transport them to medical and other appointments.
Kemp said while some of the positions are part-time, they may be paired to provide full-time wages to those seeking them.
Julie Pavucek of Weirton turned out for the job fair after learning of it by chance. Having moved to the area recently with her husband, she saw a flier for it at her bank earlier that morning and rushed home to prepare.
Pavucek had worked for an agency on aging in Pennsylvania so she spoke to staff with the Brooke County Senior Center about the opportunities there.
“This is a great event,” she said.
Jeanne Wohnhas, who co-chaired the event with BDC Assistant Director Jacob Keeney, was disappointed it didn’t draw as many as the chamber’s first job fair in 2019.
Spurred by layoffs at the local Koppers plant, it attracted about 1,000 job applicants.
But Wohnhas and others behind the event were happy to be able to offer the event again and appreciated the businesses and organizations that participated.
“We had a diversity of businesses — manufacturing, banking, healthcare. We hope the employers were able to find what they are looking for,” said Chamber President Debbie Puskarich, who added it was all part of the chamber’s effort to help the community.
(Scott can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)