A recent area job fair had prospective employees from both in and out of the area flocking to the Cullman Civic Center to see what kinds jobs the county has to offer, and to hand out their resumes to local industry representatives.

“I do construction, but we’re just slow right now,” said Isaac Johnson, 24, who lives in Winston County and found out about the career fair through Facebook. “I’m just trying to see who’s hiring.”

Kim Putman, who traveled to Cullman from Blountsville to attend the job fair, said finding a well-paying job where she lives has been extremely difficult.

“It’s hard to find work in Blount County,” she said. “There’s nothing there but Walmart. I just need a job that pays more than 10 (dollars) an hour.”

Close to 300 people had stopped by the Rehau booth by the end of the day, according Jana Schroeder, human resources manager at the German-owned automobile parts manufacturer. Many of them left Schroeder their resumes. She said that due to presently low unemployment rates, finding qualified workers has been challenging. To address this, Rehau has started an apprenticeship program that trains potential employees for the specific work they would be doing.

“We came up with our apprenticeship program so they can have the skills that they need to do the job,” Schroeder said.

At the Rehau booth, an interactive display of a car bumper wiring system was set up so prospective applicants could get a hands-on feel for the kind of work they would be doing, if hired.

Over at the Topre booth, several current employees were stationed to answer people’s questions. All but two of the Topre representatives on hand started their own careers on the ground floor of the Japanese-owned company, working their way up to management positions — a demonstration that upward mobility is a part of the company culture. Like Rehau, Topre manufactures auto parts, but rather than going into BMWs and Mercedes-Benzes, Topre parts go in Toyotas, Hondas, Mazdas, and Nissans. They too offer training programs. 

“One of the things we want people to know is that we have some great industries in our community,” said Susan Eller, workforce development manager of the City of Cullman Economic Development Agency. “They have very competitive wages and provide great benefits.”

Eller said that local industries are hungry for both skilled and unskilled employees who will show up to work and are willing to learn the ropes. Meanwhile, many job hunters from neighboring counties are having a hard time finding steady work in their own areas and are being forced to look elsewhere for better opportunities.

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