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Nashua job fair draws laid-off grocery store workers

Union Leader Correspondent

September 05. 2013 8:51PM
Sheena Wilkinson, left, of Hollis, fills out an application and speaks with Allison Oswald, a sales associate with Polo Ralph Lauren Factory Store, in the Merrimack Premium Outlets, at a job fair held Thursday morning at Nashua Community College. (JOSH GIBNEY/UNION LEADER)

NASHUA — Former Stop & Shop workers Shea Schlander and Carolyn Barnwell were among dozens of hopeful applicants at a job fair held at Nashua Community College Thursday.

Schlander, who worked for 10 years as a bakery manager in Manchester, said she has submitted a number of applications.

"It's hard, especially finding full-time right now," Schlander said. "I've got so many applications out there."

Stop & Shop and Shaw's have each closed six stores in recent weeks, laying off more than 1,000 workers.

When the job fair opened, 37 people were standing at the door, said Pamela Szacik of New Hampshire Employment Security.

"Four job fairs were put together in the last couple of weeks just for people from Shaw's and Stop & Shop," said Szacik, adding that the job fairs were also open to the public.

Schlander, 29, said she is considering another area of work, such as retail clothing.

"Hey, you've got to change your career path, I guess," Schlander said. "I'm trying other fields, whatever is available."

Caroline Barnwell, who worked in the Stop & Shop bakery department with Schlander, said she has experience in other fields and is also open to finding work in another area.

"That was a day I'll never forget," Barnwell said of her store's Aug. 21 closing.

Szacik said the former Shaw's and Stop & Shop employees have transferable skills.

"They have a good work ethic, good skills, and we are trying to get them in places as quickly as we can," she said.

Employers from retail and manufacturing sectors, placement agencies and a medical facility were on hand to speak to job seekers.

Employer Chris Sweeney of Sweeney Metal Fabricators, Inc., Nashua, said there has been a recent surge in manufacturing in the Granite State.

Sweeney said the family business has 25 employees and is hoping to find one to two new workers.

He said manufacturers have "realized the value of bringing work back to New Hampshire and getting things done locally again because they can't beat the customer service we offer."

Job seeker Audrey Garneau stopped by Sweeney's table to fill out an application. Garneau said she left work several years ago in metal fabrication to take care of a sick parent.

"I've been helping out and now it's time to get back into the actual workforce," she said.

Job fairs are scheduled for Friday in Exeter and Tuesday in Tilton.

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