THOMASVILLE -- Job Fair 2005 was the place to be Thursday for area companies and those seeking employment opportunities.

From 9 a.m. until noon, more than 550 visitors and 36 companies attended the event at Southwest Georgia Technical College's new complex, Building A.

"Our annual job fair again was a success thanks to the entire community and surrounding area, our employers and visitors," said Joyce Halstead, director of enrollment management for SWGTC. "I think that the success of the job fair is the collaboration that takes place between the sponsors as well as the community."

Sponsors for Job Fair 2005 were the Georgia Department of Labor Thomasville Career Center, the Times-Enterprise, Thomasville-Thomas County Chamber of Commerce and SWGTC.

Representatives from furniture distributor American Signature Inc. returned for the second year to take applications and talk about their exclusive furnishings business.

"It's going great," said Debra Jones, human resource assistant. "We've had quite a number of people come through and we've been very busy today."

Ronda Porter, human resource manager, said American Signature Inc. has been struggling to receive good applications.

"This is an opportunity for people to see us," she said. "It's just good exposure, and if we don't have what they are looking for, someone else might."

Ray Armstrong works in vocational rehabilitation for the Georgia Department of Labor, Thomasville Career Center. He helps those with disabilities find work.

"I think this is a great opportunity to make people aware of what we do and it helps us and our clients," he said. "Through this fair, some of our clients will be able to go to work."

Many participants put in applications on the spot.

Christi Chandler, a recent graduate of Thomas University pursuing a job in criminal justice or counseling, visited the Southwestern State Hospital booth to discuss possible career options.

"It opens up a lot of doors for potential employment," said Chandler.

Sandra D. Morris, an employee in human resources at Southwestern State Hospital, said the fair was a great idea.

"We've seen a lot of people come by looking for employment," she said. "It's good for both employers and those looking for work. It gives people an opportunity to see what job opportunities there are in the communities and become familiar with what is available."

American International Group sells life insurance and other health plans. It attended Job Fair 2005 hoping to find a few good applicants to fill positions for its team.

"We get a chance to meet a lot of prospective people, give them an application and help them see what they can do with the rest of their lives," said Randy Erving, associate manager.

Some Job Fair 2005 visitors said they did not have a particular career in mind.

"It's interesting, and you have the chance to learn about different companies," said Jeremy Hickey, a first-time participant. "I'm just trying to get my foot in the door somewhere."

Dillon Candy Company's booth was manned by its company president, Oscar Cook, who fielded questions from interested participants regarding several open positions.

"We've seen quite a few people and a lot are interested in putting in applications," he said. "We'll review them, and hopefully we can find the right fit. We need some good team members to help us."

Autry State Prison Administration Division employee Michael Edwards and CERT member Frederick Bernard Jenkins attended the event to recruit potential correctional officers for an open door exam on June 29.

"We're looking for dedicated officers to come be part of our team," said Edwards.

Prospective employee Mike Truitt made their booth one of his first stops.

"I haven't been through it all, but it is looking good so far," he said.

Thomas County Fire Rescue firefighter Michael Manley was surprised with the turnout.

"It's going great," he said. We've had more than I expected, and we've received a good bit of applications for our positions."

George Bruno, business development manager for Workstaff Personnel Services, said his company is in charge of hiring for many area companies, including Flowers Foods.

"When companies need someone, they turn to us and we find the person for them," said Bruno.

Lowe's Human Resources Manager Tangela D. Hayes, represented several of the chain's area stores. She said she was impressed with the crowd.

"Quite a few people came prepared," said Hayes. "They brought rsums and asked the right questions."

Laura Kennedy, employment manager, human resources at John D. Archbold Memorial Hospital, said the event was a great experience for employers.

"We have licensed and unlicensed positions available," she said. "It's been very steady and we've been busy."

Halstead said Job Fair 2005 produced very positive results.

"Many applications were completed on site and employers expressed appreciation for being able to network with perspective employees," she said. "We look forward to next year's event."

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