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Job fair returns to Cuyamaca after 3-year hiatus

Posted on: Jun 12, 2014 1:00:00 AM
In: Cuyamaca
Contact: Della Elliott (619) 644-7690

A job and career fair at Cuyamaca College specially geared toward the refugee and immigrant population drew more than 300 jobseekers Thursday and about 40 companies and businesses looking to hire.

The event put on by the college and three community entities was open to the general public, but with referrals from agencies like the Alliance for African Assistance, a refugee resettlement agency and a fair co-sponsor, it drew many like Noor Sabah, who came to the United States just seven months ago.

Although she has an engineering degree from Iraq, the 28-year-old is matter-of-fact when describing her career options.

“Companies want engineers with work experience,” she said. “So, I am interested in studying to learn about HVAC  (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning).”

Sabah, who has lived in the United States for a little over a half-year, said she was referred to the East County Community Job and Career Expo by the San Diego office of the International Rescue Committee, which provides assistance to refugees forced to flee from war or disaster.

Jessica Skidmore, the local employment search director for the Public Consulting Group, a consulting agency that assists public-assistance recipients and also a fair co-sponsor, said that besides limited language skills, a shortage of confidence is the biggest hurdle for refugees and new immigrants to overcome.

“That is why we are here today -- to provide support,” Skidmore said. “It can be overwhelming for many of them to come to a job fair like this and see hundreds of people walking around, each one hoping to find a job.”

Bill Sutton, an employment specialist with the Alliance for African Assistance in San Diego, said many refugees are not familiar with job fairs and the process of finding a job.

“In their countries, it is all about who they know, who are related to,” he said. “They say, ‘I am the son of so-and-so,’ then they shake hands and they have the job. Job fairs, job applications, interviews -- it’s all quite new to them.”

Also joining the college in sponsoring the event was the East County Career Center, operated under the direction of the Grossmont Union High School District’s Adult Education Department.

“Judging from the number of people who participated and the fact that this was opened up to the general public, I think it’s clear that there is a need for an event like this, not only for our refugee students, but the community at large,” said Sheryl Ashley, a CalWORKs program specialist at Cuyamaca College. “This was a really great community liaison event.”

The college’s Career Services office had hosted job fairs for 16 years, but due to the state budget crisis and staff shortages, there was a three-year hiatus until Thursday’s event.

Companies and employers included  were the Cajon Valley Union School District; the FBI; Goodwill Industries of San Diego County; Harrah’s Resort-Southern California; Viejas Casino and Resort; Wal-Mart; YMCA of San Diego County; H & R Block; the University of California, San Diego; Goodwill Industries of San Diego County; Santibodies, and many more.

The table staffed by two FBI representatives saw a steady flow of jobseekers who were told that the bureau has non-agent openings for forensic accountants and contract linguists. After a one-year hiring freeze, the bureau is recruiting once again.















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