More than 1,200 job seekers showed up at the Queens Center mall last week for the fifth annual jobs fair sponsored by state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst). There were 45 employers at the fair, who conducted 2,140 on-site interviews with candidates and scheduled another 1,145 interviews to be conducted with applicants at a later time.
Over 50 candidates were hired on the spot by companies such as GameStop and the USTA Tennis Center. Starbucks, Santander Bank, Fresh Direct and Sephora were among the companies which scheduled follow-up interviews with candidates.
“Fortunately, we were able to help some people get jobs on the spot during the fair,” Peralta said. “Every new job is a paycheck for our hardworking neighbors. As the economy is slowly improving, our families need jobs to mitigate the problems they face every day to make ends meet. I am sure, based on past experiences, that more people will end up with a job as a result of follow-up interviews that were scheduled at the job fair and the contacts they were able to make with employers.”
According to the state Department of Labor, the unemployment rate as of May 2015 in Queens was 5.2 percent compared to 6.4 percent in May last year. The data also shows that 61,000 Queens residents remained unemployed, as of this May.
Elmhurst resident Zeena Nazneed, 31, who lives near LaGuardia Airport, has been unemployed for over a year and has had little luck in her attempt to find employment at the airport. “I want to apply at LaGuardia, but it’s tough to get a job because everything is done online now, so it’s hard to sell yourself,” she said.
Besides speaking with five employers at the fair, Nazneed was able to get tips on improving her resumé and she placed her name on a list for realty classes.
“This is a great opportunity. They should do this more often,” she said.
Jamaica resident Rodney Yacinthe, 25, has data-entry experience but has not been able to find a job in almost a year.
“I know how to adapt,” he said. “I know I can do any job as long as I get the proper training.”
Yacinthe had never been to a jobs fair before but gave it a shot after reading a friend’s Facebook post about the event. He came away with an appointment for an interview at the US Open.
Peralta noted that several employers were looking for Marines. That created a perfect opportunity for Kalven Soto, a 21-year-old Marine from Jackson Heights.
“My contract runs out next month, so I came here to find a job and network,” he said. “Everything caught my attention, everything is going well.”
Queens Center was hosting the job fair for the second straight year and its marketing manager, John Scatturo, noted it was a 50/50mix of employers from inside and outside the mall.
“The mall loves this kind of stuff,” he said. “It fits perfectly into our initiative to be a good corporate neighbor. It also provides our merchants with the opportunity to interview potential employees as they head into the busy retail season.”
State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) visited some of the vendors.
“It reminds me of the dating game. You have 1,000 people and you’re matching employees with job seekers,” she said. “It’s an opportunity for the business people, employers, job seekers, government and the mall. Everyone has come together to find a match. Hopefully, there will be a lot of marriages.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr