POINCIANA – When the Poinciana Economic Development Alliance held its first job fair on Saturday, March 24, something significant happened: someone got hired.
That event was, noted Nick Murdock, the chairman of the alliance, an unqualified success. And it was an event that almost didn’t happen.
In an email to the people who volunteered at the job fair, which was held at the Poinciana Community Center, Murdock noted “I want to add a huge thanks to all who worked hard and assisted in making our Job Fair a success.”
As Murdock pointed out, even without getting the word out to the media that this event was happening, more than 135 applicants showed up. Of those, 112 were primarily Poinciana residents, and 68 qualified construction workers handed in a resume and filled out applications.
Murdock later said this bodes well for the community, which has struggled during the recession and housing market collapse to recover.
“I was very pleased with the quality of the turnout,” he said. “There was one fellow who actually was hired there, and we got people placed. It was great.”
It was also encouraging, he said, because this was a very specialized job fair, with only one employer on the scene: Quality Labor Management, an employment agency based in Winter Park and Sanford that hires workers for construction projects across Central Florida.
And the job fair actually got cancelled before it got rescheduled, creating worries among PEDA members that no one would know the job fair was back on track.
That turned out not to be a concern.
“We had on the construction side more than 130 people who filled out registrations and submitted resumes,” Murdock said. “We’ve also had some people submitting resumes since then, and we had over 100 resumes and qualified construction people in Poinciana participate, so I’m excited.”
The alliance now also has a contractor database they can tap into, to match local workers with future job openings — a significant long-term benefit, Murdock said.
PEDA had originally scheduled the job fair for March 24, but it was postponed until June 9 at the request of the employer that’s fueling most of the short term construction jobs coming to Poinciana, the Poinciana Medical Center.
The chief operating officer of that new hospital, Joanna Conley, had asked PEDA to postpone the job fair for a few months because the principal contractor on the project, Robins & Morton, wanted more time before they could begin the general hiring. The contractor began laying the foundation for the hospital on Feb. 17, the first day of construction.
PEDA rescheduled the March 24 job fair when Quality Labor Management contacted Murdock a week earlier, and said they’d be happy to accept resumes at that event. It was reset for three hours, from 9 a.m. until noon.
Because so many applicants turned out on short notice, Murdock said he’s more confident now that the upcoming job fair – which will include representatives from the Poinciana Medical Center construction project – will be even more successful.
“The real positive aspect is there were several people hired prior to the June 9 fair,” he said.
In addition to the hospital, there are expected to be jobs available from another project, the widening of Poinciana Boulevard, at the June 9 fair. Murdock fully expects qualified applicants to get hired at that event, too.
“We’ve got Robins & Morton with the majority of the construction workers and their subcontractors there, and we should have (construction firm) Manhattan Kraft with the Poinciana Boulevard widening,” he said. “They are as ready to go as anybody else. The hospital has already broken ground. They are under way and have accelerated their schedule. And the good thing about Quality Labor Management is they will work with us indefinitely to get people hired in Poinciana.”
The June 9 job fair will be at Liberty High School’s cafeteria from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. The school is at 4250 Pleasant Hill Road. Employers related to construction will include Robins & Morton, the sub-contractors for the Poinciana Medical Center; Manhattan Construction Inc. for the widening of Poinciana Boulevard; and area sub-contractors working on miscellaneous other local building projects.
TECO, the school in Kissimmee, will be on hand to discuss further educational opportunitites, and employers expected to attend, and who are not related to construction work, will include the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Toho Water Authority, and others.
Then in November, PEDA will host a job fair for medical and health care-related jobs at the Poinciana Medical Center. This was done, Murdock said, at the request of Conley.
“November 3 is the date Joanne Conley gave us for taking resumes to work at the hospital,” Murdock said. “They are only going to be hiring 200 people, but they are going to be hiring a lot of RNs (registered nurses) and physician’s assistants.”
Applicants should start preparing for that job fair now, said PEDA member Wendy Farrell. That should include signing up for and taking any courses this summer and fall to brush up on their skills and training.
“That job fair is going to be huge,” she said.
PEDA was formed last summer by a group of local volunteers, who wanted to be sure that with as many as 7,000 new construction jobs coming to Poinciana, as many of those jobs as possible would go to qualified local residents.
Since then, PEDA has expanded its mission to promote more economic development throughout the community of 84,000 residents, and is also working now to become a fully operational non-profit organization.
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