Over 2,000 local people poured into the Millennium Forum this week in the hope of securing employment at Derry’s annual Jobs and Career Advice Fair.
A queue of over 100 people lined up outside the Millennium Forum on Wednesday morning even before the one day event got underway.
Organisers said over 550 jobs were on offer at the event from a diverse range of 28 companies including Fujitsu, Matalan, BT Flex, the Everglades Hotel and Apex Housing.
Local people in the queue prior to the opening spoke of their hopes of finding employment and how tough they were finding it to secure any type of work in Derry at the present time.
Friends, Rachel Guckian (22) and Ryan Whoriskey (23) have both graduated from university this summer with Science Degrees and were among the first in the queue.
Rachel said: “Because we are coming out of university, we have degrees, but no experience.”
“And every job is looking for experience,” Ryan adds.
“So I’m hoping to find something here that gets me that experience.”
Both said they were hoping to get on “the first steps of the ladder” at the fair to launch their careers.
Caile Duddy (19) and Shannon Duddy (21), from Galliagh, also said they were open to all types of employment.
Caile said she has been searching for a job for about a year and half since finishing at a training centre and said she has applied to lots of jobs during that time.
Shannon added: “I just stopped working there about two months ago. I was working in a chip shop before.
“It’s definitely hard to find work. There’s nothing. I’d say I’ve applied to about 15 jobs.”
The two young women said they were also keen to take onboard any careers advice on offer at the event.
A man, who did not wish to be named, said he had found it a struggle to secure employment after being made redundant twice.
He said: “I was working for 15 years at Du Pont with a contractor and was made redundant two years ago.
“I was made redundant there in August again after working for 15 months.
“In Derry there is very little. From August when I got paid off I’ve applied to at least 50 jobs, all different jobs, cleaner, anything, you name it, I applied for it.”
He said that very little employers even bothered responding to his applications.
“Not even an e-mail, not even a phonecall. It’s disheartening and for the wages they are paying, it’s not monster wages,” he claimed, adding:
“I’m hoping to get a chance here today and to get a bit of feedback if I’m doing something wrong with the CV or something, to give myself a chance.”
John Bonner (17) from Creggan is an Upper Sixth pupil at St Columb’s College, looking for some part-time work.
He said: “There’s nothing going, and if there is it is not well advertised.
“I’m looking for anything at all, a couple of hours at weekend, a couple of hours during the week, something to keep me going.
“Even if it’s only to Christmas work’s work, it’s all experience.”
Some other people gathered at the queue expressed disillusionments with the situation in Derry and said that sometimes jobs were allocated on a “who you know, not what you know” basis locally.
Over 2,100 people turned out at the fair yesterday.
Roisin Sloan, Employment Engagement Senior Manager with the Department for Employment and Learning, which organised the Fair, described the large turnout as “fantastic”.
“There are 550 jobs available today across 28 companies.
“We were hoping for a good turnout, it’s been well promoted across the city. I’m delighted to see so many people here at such an early stage and hopefully by the end of today many of them will be well on their way to employment.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity. We have had this for a number of years now and it’s just getting bigger and bigger each year, and more and more companies are participating.”
Among the other employers who were present were Fold Housing, Bryson Care West, Debenhams Foyleside, Almac
Susan Leehy, BT Flex Support Services Manager said they were looking to employ 30 people in full-time roles, 15 part-time and six apprenticeships from Derry for their Contact Centre in Belfast.
“We’re here today at Derry Job Fair offering jobs for full-time, part-time and apprenticeships at the BT Flex Contact Centre. Our full-time advisors are on a salary of £17,346 so it’s very competitive.
“The opportunities to join BT and be part of a global brand are excellent and a lot of people that have come to the BT Flex brand have made a lot of opportunities and progression over the last couple of years.”
Feedback from the Jobs Fair event has been varied but some people have expressed disappointment with the event via the “Derry Journal” Facebook Page.
One man claimed the actual number of real jobs on offer was much less that the 500 claimed, while others expressed concerns over the location of some of the jobs, pay packets and the temporary nature of some of the posts on offer.
Figures published recently confirm that Derry is still the unemployment blackspot of the north.
While the number of people claiming Job Seekers’ Allowance in the Derry and Strabane Council area decreased by one per cent in months from July to August, the council has the highest level of unemployment in the North with 7.1 per cent of men and women of working age claiming JSA. A total of 6,839 men and women claimed JSA in the Derry and Strabane council area in August.
Almost 10 per cent of the working population who are male in Derry and Strabane claim JSA. In terms of parliamentary constituencies in the North, Foyle remains the constituency with the highest level of unemployment with 7.8 per cent claiming unemployment related benefits.