By Patrick Forrest, Chicago Crusader
Thousands lined up outside the UIC Forum for the fourth citywide job fair presented by the Chicago Urban League. The event connected the many who attended to the resources and employers for communities who organizers say are in desperate need of employment opportunities.
“That line outside proves just how important this is,” said Chelsea Whittington, Manager of External Affairs with the Chicago Urban League referring to a line that extended down the block. “Our people need these jobs.”
According to state statistics, Illinois Black men had an unemployment rate of 15.1, more than three times the national rate, and the highest for any state in the nation. And for Black youth like 17-year-old Ohaji Williams, prospects are even more daunting. Black people under the age of 20 face an unemployment rate of more that 42 percent, again among the nation’s worst.
Williams, a Chicago Military Academy student entering his senior year before enlisting in the Navy, entered the UIC Forum with the goal of finding a position for the summer and as a supplement to his studies.
“I just want a job,” Williams said. “Something like at Navy Pier would be nice and then I can go into the military to be able to get college out the way.”
Inside the event, Williams along with the many others, got the opportunity to take headshots, spruce up their resumes and talk with dozens of companies and organizations, some of whom were doing on-the-spot hiring.
“We have put on a couple of workshops and things to give people suggestions on how to build their resumes up, how to dress and all the other little things that many times aren’t known about,” Whittington said, adding that these are “the small tricks of the trade” that give job applicants an edge.
Another of the event sponsors was Jobcase, which allows its users to interact with other professionals, or those who aspire to “empower” each other.
“Like to think of it as a contemporary of LinkedIn, except LinkedIn is great for people with advanced degrees, but the large majority of the work force does not have that. What we want to do is empower that 70 percent of the population which is looking for that work” Jobcase CEO Fred Goff said.
And that feeling worked for 28-year-old Michael Robinson who found work at Amazon from the day’s event.
“I’m just glad I found something,” Robinson said minutes after shaking hands with his new employer’s representative. ”It’s hard out here for us man, especially to find something good.”