On Religion, The Media and Life as a 20-something in Chicago

ELGIN — Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka compared it to speed dating. “Right now, you’re on a date,” Topinka told about 400 jobseekers Thursday morning at her Elgin Employment Expo. “Hopefully, it will lead to marriage.” The Elgin Employment Expo in the Spartan Events Center at Elgin Community College was the comptroller’s second in a series of employment expos, following an event in Rockford last month. It featured 40 employers and five service providers, including representatives from Elgin Sweeper, the Habitat for Humanity of Northern Fox Valley ReStore, Walgreens, TCF Bank and several temporary work agencies. The community college’s Career Services Department also offered free resume reviews and workshops on networking, interviewing and WorkKeys. Topinka said the idea for the employment expos came from the fact that the comptroller’s office “know(s) who the vendors are because we deal with all of them.” “We know what the economic situation is and feel just awful so many people are out of work — especially in this area, which is higher than average,” she said. Statewide, the unemployment rate is just over 10 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s hovered closer to 11 percent (currently, 10.8) in Elgin, Topinka noted. It’s at 13 percent in Rockford where, she said, about 700 people turned out for her first expo. “We got all sorts of people hired there,” she said. “I don’t see why we can do that here as well.” Elgin Community College President David Sam echoed the comptroller in his opening remarks to jobseekers Thursday: “I know some of you, several of you, many of you are going to get jobs today.” Just want work Gretchen Rothenbach and her brother Matt Melchior, both of Elgin, hoped to be two of “the some, the several, the many.” Rothenbach has been unemployed since she left a job at a self-storage company after a change in management four years ago, she said. Melchior was laid off about three months ago, he said. More work has gotten done around the house the two share with their mother and Rothenbach’s husband in those past three months than in the past three years, Melchior joked. And Rothenbach agreed: “The boredom is a big thing — where your next paycheck will come from. I’m not a money person. I don’t need a huge paycheck. I just like to work. That’s my thing.” In the last four years, that’s meant a lot of odd jobs — watching friends’ pets, a few assignments through a temp agency — and applying for permanent work. By her estimate, she’s applied for more than 700 jobs. She’s tried applying with the same companies more than once, even opening her search further outside her comfort zone, she said. Her “strong family” has been her greatest support through her unemployment, Rothenbach said — especially her father, who recently passed away. “We’re hoping out of tragedy will come triumph and make this easier for my mom, get the economy back to the way it should be,” she said. Topinka said the employment expos hosted by her office also were a little “self-seeking.” “If they’re employed, they’re going to go out and pay their taxes. If they pay their taxes, it goes to the comptroller’s office eventually, and I can pay bills. I won’t have 160,000 bills facing me and an $8 billion waiting list of monies we owe,” she said. That’s where the comptroller’s office currently stands, she said. And she figured, she said, “If we can get our companies together with folks who need jobs, and create the atmosphere of people getting together and talking, something’s going to happen.” Expanding expos The comptroller’s office chose Elgin because it wants to get to as many parts of the state to reach as many people as possible, according to spokesman Brad Hahn. The next expo will be Jan. 10 in Edwardsville, he said, and more are planned, including an expo for veterans. It approached Elgin Community College because the school has hosted similar events in the past, Hahn said. Not to mention, he said, the college’s president recently joined the comptroller’s African-American Advisory Committee. Sam said hosting the expo was “a no-brainer” because “ECC is committed to helping people get jobs.” That’s something Jamile Clasberry of Elgin can back up. The first-year student at ECC said he got a call from the school inviting him to the event. He came with his brother Clyde, who lives in Chicago, because he was laid off from his job as a forklift operator in April when “things got slow.” He’d like to find something local and maybe part-time, he said, so he can continue his studies in criminal justice. “I’m just doing my best, trying to stay focused,” Clasberry said. “Hopefully, God will bless me with something.” And, Topinka told jobseekers Thursday that she hopes the employment expos will help. “We’re really going to turn you out, make you so beautiful, when a potential employer meets you, they’ll go crazy to have you,” she said. Copyright 2011, The Courier-News. All rights reserved. To read the original story, visit The Courier-News.

In Uncategorized on December 9, 2011 at 9:57 am

Elgin college expo attracts hundreds of jobseekers (Sun-Times Media)

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