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Job hunters seek to impress at boro employment fair

About 1,500 job seekers from all over the borough braved the cold Friday to attend the Queens Job Fair Winter 2003 at the Sheraton LaGuardia East Hotel in Flushing.

Representatives from three dozen organizations, ranging from insurance companies to training institutes to the armed forces, explained the opportunities in their field to job hunters who submitted resumes and hoped for the best.

The event was sponsored by the TimesLedger Newspapers.

Not all of those seeking work at the fair lost their jobs in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, but they found their search difficult in an economy that still has not fully recovered from the fallout of the terror attacks.

“I’m looking for any kind of job right now,” said Rishi Koemai, 23, of Far Rockaway.

The former forklift operator quit his job in November when an expected raise did not pan out, and he is still looking.

“I hope I can find something quickly,” Koemai said. “It’s harder than I thought.”

Several people who made the rounds of employers’ tables expressed frustration at the lack of available work in their preferred fields.

Jamaica resident Norma Riley, 45, works part time in customer service but was looking for full-time work at her second job fair.

“I don’t see anything in customer service,” Riley said. “Everything is about sales.”

An Astoria man in his 50s who declined to give his name said he lost his job as an information technology professional the day before Thanksgiving, when the company he was working for lost its contract and laid off more than 500 people.

“With the experience I have, I don’t think anything here is going to be able to satisfy me,” he said.

Career adviser Anthony Brathwaite of Drake Business School in Astoria said enrollment at the training institute had increased between 5 percent and 10 percent over the past year, with a large jump in students using unemployment vouchers to pay tuition.

“A lot of people are coming to us because they want short-term training,” Brathwaite said. “We’re also getting a lot of people with college degrees.”

John Exumé, a district representative for the financial services marketing company Primerica, said people with widely varying professional backgrounds were showing interest in his firm.

“Before we got more sales and financial people,” Exumé said. “Now we’re getting a lot of cooks, a lot of [information technology] people.”

The job fair seemed to hold the most promise for those willing to explore new career options.

J.P. David, regional sales coordinator for the Aflac supplemental insurance company, said he hoped to hire three to four people from the event.

“We’re in the hiring mode,” he said.

Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda at www.timesledger.com or call 1-718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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