Work wanted

LIHUE — Terrence Balaro is looking for a job, any kind of job, really.

Currently employed by Syngenta Seeds as a crop protector, Balaro said he is concerned that if  Kauai County Council Bill 2491 is passed, it will eliminate his position and he’ll be left with the uneasy feeling of needing to find a new way to make a living.

What exactly would Balaro, who holds a degree in advertising and marketing, do if his job went away?

“I don’t really know,” Balaro said, perusing the vendors and businesses set up Wednesday during the Kauai Job Fair at the Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall. “But I want to be ready, so I’m looking for any kind of job right now.”

Balaro was one of hundreds of people who jammed inside the hall during the fair put on to help job-seekers improve their search prospects, as well as to put employers in direct contact with pools of potential applicants.

And the crowd was eager to get the 9 a.m. fair going.

“There were people lined up before we opened the doors,” said Bradford Keo, a coordinator for WorkWise Kauai, which sponsored the event with help from Kauai Community College. “Even now, more than an hour later, there are still people coming in. This fair is really big.”

More than 60 vendors, including the major resorts, businesses, and retailers, distributed job applications and, in some cases, conducted on-site job interviews to fill immediate openings.

Some businesses even traveled from other islands to recruit Kauai workers.

“We have positions for Sears Home Service on Oahu and Maui,” said Marilyn Luis, of Kmart, at a display booth, though she encouraged interested applicants to still apply online. “For Kauai, we have about 30 people we need to find to fill about eight positions.”

Hawaiian Telcom also had positions for Kauai and Oahu offices, the management positions being for Oahu and the Kauai positions being technical ones. Syngenta Seeds also had four new positions, which will not be posted until next week.

“We work a lot with Hawaii Employment Global Agriculture,” said Arthur Brun, of Syngenta Seeds. “They provide all the seed companies with between 300 and 400 workers.”

A little farther down the hall, a steady stream of people filed back and forth from the company Global Agriculture’s table.

“I was over at the job fair on Oahu, earlier,” said Eric Nordmeier of WorkWise. “At that time, I invited several of the vendors there to the Kauai fair, and I was surprised when several of them accepted. We have one firm who is planning on opening a Kauai office and is looking for staff.”

Kauai’s unemployment numbers have been improving, but still lag behind most every other county in the state.

Two weeks ago, economist Dr. Jack Suyderhoud told an audience of more than 400 people that Kauai is still recovering from the Great Recession, which affected labor and jobs on Kauai more than other counties.

“Less than half of those 3,500 lost jobs have returned,” Suyderhoud told the crowd.

“While the unemployment rate is down for Kauai, it is still above the statewide average.”

Kauai County had a 4.9 percent not-seasonally-adjusted unemployed rate in August  — the second-highest rate in the state. Only the Big Island, which showed a 5.8 percent unemployed rate, was higher.

Hawaii’s unemployment rate in August was 4.3 percent, lower than the national average of 7.3 percent, according to a Sept. 19 Department of Labor report. Those numbers reflect a decrease from the 5.7 percent and 8.1 percent rates from Aug. 2012.

The Kauai number also shows an improvement over its 5.1 percent unemployment rate from August 2012.

But some at the fair said that, despite the improvement, they’re still feeling the recession’s effects.

“This is my first job fair,” said Katie Beer of Kalaheo. “The economy got me. I tried to do my project, but it just didn’t work. I found a few places to place applications with, and now, I just need to wait and see.”

Beer said she saw a lot of businesses at the fair, but didn’t think many of them seemed to be hiring.

Some offered help for potential applicants.

Eric Knutzen, of the Kauai Community College Hoouluwehi sustainability project, offered free training.

“We’re taking names for a class which will train people in creating footings for affordable sustainable housing,” he said.

Kathy Shanks, of People Attentive To Children, took a similar approach.

“We don’t have job openings,” Shanks said. “But there is a need for child care on this island. We can teach and train people to become licensed child care providers because we’re always looking for people.”

She said there are currently 42 licensed child care providers, and with an estimated 3,000 children below 5 years old.

And that could be an opportunity.

“A lot of the licensed child care providers started out caring for their own children and discovered they could make extra money by caring for other people’s children,” Shanks said. “The best part is they have their own business.”

• Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.

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