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Help Wanted: Thousands Answer the Call to Work

On the same day the Department of Labor announced the November unemployment rate fell to 4.6 percent, the lowest level in nine years, a winding line of job-seekers snaked around Spring Garden Street and down 17th Street on the Main Campus.

One of the hopeful was Wakeler Tongor, a married father of two, including a newborn, who has been looking for a family-sustaining job since graduating from Temple in 2009. He currently works two part-time jobs, for a pharmaceutical company and for an assisted living facility, but both jobs combined don’t pay him enough to support his growing family. He hoped to find salaried, full-time employment, preferably a supervisory job in social services.

Like hundreds of others, he marveled over the overwhelming turnout as the City of Philadelphia hosted a jobs fair seeking applicants for 30 job areas ranging from police officers to firemen to city planners to sanitation workers and lawyers.

“This just goes to show how badly people need work,” Tongor said. “Even if people are working, they aren’t making as much as they would want to make.”

The City Government Career Fair came to Community College of Philadelphia Friday, December 2nd. The fair provided informational sessions with more than 30 participating city departments, including the Philadelphia Police Department, the Department of Human Services and the Free Library of Philadelphia. More than 2,000 applicants attended, including 1,000 current and former Community College of Philadelphia students. They learned about various jobs openings and in some cases, applied for them. Staff from the College’s Keystone Education Yields Success (KEYS) program helped out by registering people in line, and handing out college career literature to those who aspired to higher-paying jobs.

“I just want a job with benefits,” said Mike Scott, an unemployed locksmith, who stood in line with his live-in girlfriend Kristen Sanders, who added, “It’s hard when there’s only one person working in a household.”

The fair was scheduled to run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., but because of the enormous numbers of applicants, members of the KEYS staff cut the line off at about 1 p.m., allowing those already assembled time to go through the process. But those left out did not leave empty-handed, as College staffers provided them with information about employment, upcoming job fairs and more.

Many jobseekers had never been on the campus before, so it gave staff a captive audience, and an opportunity to discuss a range of job training and degree options. “We’re letting them know they can come to the College and get a degree,” said Kimberly Daniel, project director of KEYS, who was speaking with job seekers and conducting interviews as they left. “Or, if they have a degree, they can come back and get more training. We can be a resource for them.”

“I’m not surprised so many people came out,” she added. “I don’t care what anybody says, people want to work.”