7000 overwhelm Job Fair outside DCBy Alan Portner
DC Public Policy Examiner
Stafford County VA (March 9, 2010) As the clock tolled just 10:00 in the morning, a four or five deep line had already formed and circled a huge parking lot outside Building 125 on the University of Mary Washington campus outside Fredericksburg. Job seekers had gathered from around the state to take part in a Federal Jobs Fair organized by Senator Mark Warner (D-VA).
47 Federal agencies represented:
Warner knows (as President Obama pushes Congress to finish its work on Health Care Reform) thousands of unemployed Virginians are even more concerned with finding new employment. Warner’s office decided to coordinate a “Jobs” event and recruited representatives from 47 federal agencies to set up tables in a large room at a prestigious college to try to help constituents in their job searches.
Fears that applicants might not attend:
Senator Warner’s heart is clearly in the right place. By the middle of last week, it seemed that the Senator’s effort might pass almost unnoticed. Only 150 job seekers had signed up for attendance. A decision was made. The Senator’s staff sent out emails and utilized robotic telephone phone calls inviting folks to the event. By the end of day, as the result of a request to RSVP, attendance exploded to thousands of registrants.
7000 applicants appear:
Unintentionally, a stunning visual testament to the depth of the unemployment crisis appeared out of almost nowhere. Over 7000 people showed up, waiting patiently in line for a chance to reach out and touch a hoped for future situation on a glorious spring day in the parking lot of a college campus.
These thousands of job seekers were not folks accustomed to waiting in long lines for a government dole. Instead, they were professional people dressed impeccably with men in suits and ties and women in dresses and high heels. These were obviously educated and obviously eager - a diverse lot representing all races and age groups. All clutched piles of resumes and displayed their best interview demeanors in hopes of snagging employment with Uncle Sam.
Two parking lots filled:
Two college parking lots quickly loaded with cars and the huge lot outside a Super Walmart across the street. Stafford county Sheriff’s deputies directed traffic by hand. The several miles to I-95 were jammed with cars.
The wait line continued to grow until it became obvious around noon to everyone that the response had overwhelmed the ability to service it. Calls went out over media shouting that the event had reached capacity. More people could not be accommodated. Senator Warner’s office promised to schedule another event in the near future.
Inside the "Jobs" event:
Meanwhile, inside the facility, tables were neatly lined up in rows from the 47 agencies ranging from ATF to the Peace Corps to the Secret Service. Each table had a backing display, piles of promotional material, and several agency employees to answer questions about the kinds of openings that might be available.
People manning the tables for their agency tried hard. They were pleasant. They encouraged. They passed out vacancy notices. They accepted resumes. Some took notes. All applicants were advised that formal application needed to be made through the USA.gov website. Most were line workers in their various agencies drafted to man a table for a Senator for the day away from their normal duties. The one thing no one could do was any real hiring.
Final thousand in line turned away:
And so the fair went on… After waiting all day long in line, the final thousand applicants were turned away. Many attendees were saddened and depressed by the experience. They had come with high hopes and dreams of joining the government. They went away frustrated and wondered why they had driven to the Jobs Fair from as far away as Virginia Beach and Connecticut.