Job fair held amid storm

By Dan Punch, from   The Observer

Sarnia-Lambton job hopefuls braved whipping winds and pouring rain in an attempt to lure a major employer to town Tuesday.

Hinduja Global Solutions (HGS) Canada wrapped up its two-day job fair at the Lambton Inn, accepting applications for a new call centre potentially headed for Sarnia.

HGS has been auditioning communities for the 400 to 500-seat inbound call centre and spent two days last week in Chatham-Kent.

The two neighbouring communities are among four to five regions currently in the running, said vice president of human resources Kathy Follett-Lloyd.

“We’ve met a lot of sincere people who want to work, and they’re exuding that as they come in,” Follett-Lloyd said.

Sarnia is in the running because of its labour market and a potential turnkey solution for a location in the vacant NCO call centre building, which closed earlier this year.

“When you lose a call center from our industry, it leaves behind a very talented work force,” she noted.

HGS came to Sarnia during two days of severe weather brought on by Hurricane Sandy which knocked down trees and left much of the city without power.

Follett-Lloyd said she didn’t know the total number of applicants in Sarnia, but the turn-out in such extreme weather showed dedication. There were applicants lined up at 10 a.m. both days when the doors opened.

Kevin McPhail applied with his sights set on moving up the ladder. The 25-year-old is a graduate of Lambton College’s information technology program with all his certifications.

Call centres have a lot of room for growth – he could start in customer service and work his way into an IT position, he said.

McPhail is currently unemployed, and says the local job market is tough for someone with his skill set. His college program set the expectation high that he’d land a job in Chemical Valley after graduation, he said.

“They pave the road in gold, but once you get out in the real world, it’s not like that,” he said.

McPhail worked at NCO for two-and-half years but jumped ship just before it closed, killing at least 400 jobs.

The Sarnia Lambton Economic Partnership (SLEP) was hoping for 1,500 local applicants to help sell the community to HGS, said Geoff Greening.

Those who came out were very interested, he noted.

Online applications will remain open at until the company makes its decision, but there is currently no timetable, Follett-Lloyd said.

HGS has opened call centres the previous three springs – in Belleville, North Bay and Thunder Bay – and hopes to launch this one in early 2013.

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