By Dennis Seid
TUPELO – A small crowd was waiting early Friday for the doors to open at a job fair at Itawamba Community College’s Belden Center, hoping to land a job with one of the nearly two dozen companies participating in the free event.
Among the employers were several furniture manufacturers – including Lane – looking for upholsterers, frame-builders, sewing machine operators and others to prepare for the usual fall ramp-up. Toyota was looking for skilled workers and production employees. Hudson Management was looking to fill spots in its seven McDonald’s locations.
For some job-seekers, the application process was a little different than what they expected.
“It’s a totally different way than it used to be done, with it being more of a two-step process now,” said James Williams, ICC’s vice president of economic and community services. “More companies are looking for a fit. Let’s say a person applies for an upholsterer job, but it turns out they probably would do better as a sewing machine operator.”
More companies are sending applicants to go online to fill out information. From there, they may be asked to go through an assessment process to determine where they can best be utilized.
Interviews and drug testing are still the norm, but applicants may also have to perform tasks like they would do on the job.
Among some of the early job-seekers at the fair were Kizzi McGaughy and her sister, Britney.
“I’m looking for a job, maybe in a factory,” Kizzi said. “I’ve been doing housecleaning and janitorial work, but there’s not a lot of money in it.”
Pontotoc-based furniture maker Southern Motion employs about 1,000 people at two plants in Pontotoc and a plant in Baldwyn, but was looking for more help.
“We’ve got jobs in all areas,” said Joe Vance, the company’s HR director. “We’re looking for experienced workers as well as trainees.”
Nearby, Matt Ramey of PostureCraft Mattress was looking o fill 20 to 25 jobs. The Alabama-based company is moving into a factory in Plantersville and is waiting for additional equipment to arrive.
“We’re hoping to start up in about two weeks,” Ramey said. “And we’re looking for people now. Down the road we’d like to grow to 50, 60, 80, etc.”
Lane Furniture Industries also was hiring for its Belden and Saltillo plants. While company representatives declined to be interviewed for the story, they did tell potential applicants that the company was hiring at both plants.
“We’re still making furniture,” one official said.
Lane has been wrapped up in it parent company, Furniture Brands International’s, recent bankruptcy filing.
Working in a furniture company appealed to Tyler Stubbs of Baldwyn, who’s had experience in molding and assembly.
“Yes, I’m looking toward the furniture industry,” he said.
The restaurant industry is another option with Hudson Management, which employs more than 500 people at its seven McDonald’s locations in Northeast Mississippi.
HR Manager Charles Gardner said the company was looking for shift leaders and newly created department heads.
“There are no set number right now were looking at, but I can say we’re looking for at least 20 shift leaders,” he said. “With our stores being open 24 hours, we’re needing people to fill those spots.”
Other companies at the job fair said building a pool of applicants for future review was one benefit of attending the job fair.