City Hall was teeming with people recently but there wasn’t a contentious public meeting or protest, rather hundreds of Turlockers seeking employment were attending a hiring fair.
Finding a job can be a difficult and time consuming task but the City of Turlock and Stanislaus Business Alliance are working together to make finding employment one step easier for local residents.
“We’re thinking of new ways to develop business partnerships with companies and we have this public space which is paid for by tax payer dollars. Why not use it and make it easy for those looking for a job in our community?” said Assistant to the City Manager for Economic Development and Housing Maryn Pitt.
With the slew of new stores opening up their doors at Monte Vista Crossings, hundreds of jobs will be added to the local economy. To offer citizens access to these jobs the City of Turlock and SBA co-hosted a job fair for Jo-Ann Fabric and Crafts as well as Tilly’s, which collectively drew in more than 500 applicants.
“Jo-Ann’s had to cap the application process at 320 for the Turlock store,” said Pitt, noting that 140 people were interviewed at City Hall within two days with 58 hired in order to fill the store’s needs.
Jo-Ann’s interviewing staff consisted of the store’s management team and focused less on basic skills and more on the interviewee’s personality and attitude towards the job.
“They said they can teach you how to manage a cash register, instead, they are interested in finding out how you interact with people,” explained Pitt.
Tending to hire from the 18 and over crowd, Jo-Ann's also held job training for new employees at City Hall in the following days. Tilly’s also hosted a job fair at City Hall where a team of four hired 35 individuals, many of whom were made offers on the spot.
“People were dancing down the hall that day,” said Pitt.
Coupled with the nearly 100 individuals hired between Jo-Ann and Tilly’s, Grocery Outlet opened its doors on West Main Street and hired an additional 42 positions in the past six weeks.
“That is a lot of jobs,” said Pitt, noting that even the part-time retail positions are integral in keeping local college students in the town and contributing to the economy. “Adding jobs strengthens our ability as a community to function and means it’s not necessary for people to leave Turlock and spend money on gas to find a job.”
The sales tax from purchases made at Grocery Outlet and Monte Vista Crossings shops is also a heavy generator of funds that helps pay for local recreation programs, city parks, as well as public safety amongst other services. Turlock currently receives 90 percent of every one cent spent, meaning that the city benefits when its residents spend money in town, which in turn helps businesses and Turlock’s overall economic health.
Turlock currently has an unemployment rate of 8.6 percent which is 1.2 percent higher than the state average and nearly 3 percent lower than the Stanislaus County, which stands at 11.4 percent according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.
While Pitt noted that the recent employment opportunities are indicative of positive economic growth in the community, there are still areas for improvement especially in the trade sector. Semi-skilled jobs, or positions that require skill sets but not necessarily a formal college education, have proved difficult to keep filled in the community. Modesto Junior College, Turlock High School, and other schools including private ones with trade training have aimed to fill the gap in recent years by offering certification programs and partnering with the SBA through an incentive program.
While Pitt noted the current difficulty in maintaining employees in semiskilled positions, such as mechanics and those who work on production equipment, Turlock’s industrial and food processing facilities offer ample opportunity for those with the proper training. The City of Turlock is currently working with the SBA to offer a hiring fair in upcoming weeks in order to fill current vacancies at the existing Hilmar Cheese plant in Hilmar as well as new positions at the Turlock facility which is slated to open in late 2015.
“We’re excited that we’re able to add quality paying jobs and offer something for people who are interested in living and working in Turlock,” said Pitt.