Employers impressed by job-seeking miners
BY: Chuck Stinnett, The Henderson Gleaner
HENDERSON, Ky. - Employers said they were pleased with the quality of applicants at a job fair held at the Sullivan Tech Center at the Henderson Community College Campus on Jan. 29 that included numerous miners who were laid off Dec. 31 when Patriot Coal Corp. permanently closed its Highland and Dodge Hill mines in Union County.
More than 200 miners and other jobseekers turned out for the event at Henderson Community College, which attracted 31 employers and nine organizations offering services ranging from retraining to financial planning.
Kyndle President and CEO Brad Schneider said no one wanted the mines, which employed 670 people at wages averaging some $80,000 a year (counting overtime), to close. But he said there is a silver lining that “we’re catching our local economy at a time when jobs are available.”
The unemployment rate in Henderson County is at a seven-year low, and many industries and other employers are hiring.
However, Schneider acknowledged, “Rare are the jobs that pay what miners make.”
But employers could provide other important benefits, said jobseeker John Cartwright, 40, of Providence, who had worked as a water pumper for Patriot.
“Pay is not as important to me as the (health) insurance,” Cartwright said.
If he could find a decent-paying with good insurance, “It wouldn’t hurt as bad,” he said.
Representatives of employers, meanwhile, spoke highly of both the job fair and the jobseekers.
“We had a great showing,” Uric Heitkemper, who helped man the table for the International Paper recycling mill in Henderson, said. “We had as many people out here today as (applied) online the last month or two.”
“We talked with a couple of people just out of college,” he said. “It was mostly miners and people looking for a better job.”
The laid-off miners, who are accustomed to working plenty of overtime, were particularly impressive, Heitkemper said.
“You can’t be a coal miner and be lazy,” he said. “They’re good workers with a broad range of skills.”
“It was a really good turnout,” Lori Mosley, the health care wellness director and coach for Pittsburg Tank & Tower Co., said. It’s the second job fair her company had participated in recently.
“I felt this one was a lot better,” Mosley said. “There were a lot more qualified applicants today. They’re serious about it, looking for a position. They’ll tell you, ‘We won’t miss work.’ ”
“On several of the (job) applications, they emphasized that they won’t miss work,” echoed Bill Judd, who works in quality control for Pittsburg.
Schneider said Kyndle, the chamber of commerce and economic development organization that helped organize the event with several other community and training organizations, was impressed by the number of applicants who attended.
The job fair was a joint effort of Kyndle, Henderson Community College, Workforce Solutions, the Kentucky Office of Employment and Training, the Kentucky Economic Development Cabinet, Union County First, the Murray State Small Business Development Center, the Green River Area Development District and the Northwest Kentucky Training Consortium. The event was sponsored by the Henderson Community College, J and B Barbecue, RC Cola, NKTC and Kyndle.
“I think the turnout exceeded everybody’s expectation,” Schneider said.
Indeed, the parking lot at HCC’s Sullivan Technology Center, where the job fair took place, was at capacity Thursday morning, forcing Schneider to park along a roadway at the rear entrance to the college campus.
“Every one of the companies (that signed up) came and all were very pleased,” he said.
“The main thing is, we’re glad to be able to help people. Maybe we’ll help some people stay in their homes without having to move to find a job.”
“I couldn’t be more pleased,” HCC Workforce Solutions Liaison Victoria Reed said. “It was really a group effort.”