LEDA’s 21st Annual Job Fair, held May 10 at the Cajundome Convention Center, had 94 registered companies that attracted more than 3,200 job seekers. Dozens of the region’s top employers were on hand to screen potential job candidates at the largest job recruitment event in Acadiana.
This year’s fair was even more important given the recent amount of job losses in the region due to the latest energy downturn. The job fair is part of ongoing efforts in the region to connect displaced workers with companies that are hiring. The many companies participating in the fair offered jobs ranging from entry-level to experienced, from those needing little training to those requiring advanced degrees.
Job seeker Brett Jordan, 29, says he was laid off in February from Houston-based Noram Drilling and is looking for “a good career more in my range of experience. I like more construction with hands-on training. I like working on motors, so something like that would be nice.”
Jonathan Goodie, 46, lost his 10-year position at Sparrow’s Off Shore, an oilfield contractor and service company based in Abbeville.
Goodie, who has driving and warehouse work experience, had already set up two interviews when ABiz talked with him. “One at Schilling [Distributing],” he says. “[The Schilling rep] is going to call me back he said next week.”
However, Goodie did not dismiss the weary economic outlook. “Hopefully, it’s going to bounce back,” he says. “It looks like it might bounce back, but you know you’ve got to still search further, because the jobs are just not there. When you’re used to making 20 something dollars an hour and they offer you $11, it’s hard to accept a job that is half of your regular pay. But you’ve got to do something in the meantime.”
The job fair also had its fair share of proactive college students, including two who are currently attending the computer science program at UL Lafayette.
“Work is kind of slow where I’m at now, so I’m looking for an internship because I’m currently going to UL also," says Seth Faulk, 21, who currently works part-time at Vapourganics vapor shop in Lafayette.
Both were combing the floor of the convention center for jobs specifically targeted to their profession.
“We’re primarily looking for something IT related or something in the computer field, because if it involves a computer then it’s a job worth having,” says Ladner.
Ladner and Faulk say they have a year and 1.5 years, respectively, until they graduate from UL Lafayette with a bachelor’s degree, but remain uncertain of what might come after.
“If I can’t find a job, I unfortunately am going to have to probably go back, because in the tech field if you’re out for a year and you’re not learning stuff then you are kind of obsolete and you pretty much have to go back,” says Ladner of continuing her education.
The two also expressed concern over the uncertainty of how their academic careers would be affected by the ups and downs that higher education funding has recently seen during the ongoing state budget crisis.
Both Faulk and Ladner have seen the price of their tuition double since they began attending UL Lafayette. Ladner says her three-class summer semester cost her around $3,500, which the couple admits was far more expensive than when they first attended UL Lafayette.
“Our first full time semester was $3,000,” says Ladner. “And now it’s $6,000 for a full-time semester.”
“And with tuition being $6,000 for full time or $3,000 for three courses, you need TOPS and whatever you can get for it to work,” adds Faulk.
Both are largely dependent on the financial support that TOPS affords them, but admit that they are uncertain if it will still be around to fund their remaining semesters.
“We don’t even know right now,” says Ladner. “We don’t know if we’re grandfathered in. They’re throwing out all of these new rules. We don’t know what’s going on. We’re just as uninformed as everyone else, and we’re honestly more scared because I have a year left in my TOPS. We both have a year left to our TOPS. We can’t afford it without TOPS, so I don’t know what’s going to happen. We really don’t. Everything is just shady. We’re just trying to take it semester by semester and see what happens.”