A job and education fair amid layoffs in Plant City

03/10/09 Seán Kinane
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In Plant City there have been several large-scale layoffs during the last year. That has made non-farm employment opportunities difficult to come by for the 30,000 residents of this eastern Hillsborough County community.

Today the Plant City campus of Hillsborough Community College, or HCC, held a college and job fair for students and members of the public like Plant City resident Patricia Hayes.

On New Year’s Eve Hayes was laid off from Tampa Bay Academy after its license was revoked by the Health Care Administration. Hayes was an administrative assistant who audited medical charts.

But that’s just one in a series of major lay-offs. Plant City’s largest private employer, Smithfield Foods, announced last month that it would close its meat processing plant and lay off all 760 employees by September. It’s “horrible” looking for a job in Plant City, according to resident Garry Fisher. Because of the downturn in construction, Fisher has not been able to find work in computer drafting.

Fisher visited the employment table for the Holiday Inn Express in Plant City. Their general manager, Jennifer Ferguson says they are seeking applicants for housekeeping and front desk positions.

In 2008 there were at least three major layoffs in Plant City. In April, James Hardie Building Products -- one of the city's largest employers -- laid off 79 workers. Albertson’s supermarket announced in June that 121 distribution center employees would lose their jobs in August. And in October more than 160 workers at Golden Aluminum Extrusion were fired with no warning because their plant was shut down.

Plant City resident Cederic Cotton is looking for a job in a warehouse or retail.

Dan Burtz is an industrial maintenance technician from Plant City who was part of a major layoff at Lakeland’s Key Safety near the end of last year.

Lakika Moultrie of Bartow had been a city planner in Jacksonville but now is looking for any job she can find.

But there are some jobs out there. Kurt Wilkening, division chief of recruiting for Hillsborough County, says that despite the county’s budget problems, they are hiring water plant operators and trainees, office clerks, and professional engineers.

Staff Sergeant Luiz A. Lopez is a recruiter for the U.S. Army in Plant City. He says that local recruitment is “meeting the numbers” even though the qualifications that recruits have to meet have gotten tougher.

In addition to providing an opportunity to connect job seekers with 20 employers, HCC’s college and job fair gave students and potential students an opportunity to learn about ten colleges and universities in Florida. Minnie Burrows is student services manager at HCC.

Reyna Perez has almost completed her 2-year Associate’s degree at HCC and is looking both for a job and a four-year college. She learned about the University of Tampa’s nursing program from Colleen Duffy, their assistant director of transfer admissions. Perez has part-time work as a switchboard operator in a hospital, but is looking for employment with more regular hours.

UT’s Duffy admits that recruiting students to a private college can be difficult during a recession. “I’m really not surprised to see the students on the other side of the room.”


Plant City

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