OTHER VOICES

Free ride job market

Posted Sept. 18, 2012, at 3:57 p.m.

The Maine CareerCenter held a job fair Monday morning.

The event was held at its office on Mollison Way in Lewiston where more than 30 employers — all of whom are hiring — were available to talk to job seekers.

This was, in simple terms, a recruitment effort by Carbonite, Cianbro, Fastenal, FedEx, Geiger Bros., Grover Gundrilling, Lee Auto Mall, International Paper, TD Bank, Time Warner Cable, Sunday River, several temporary agencies and other employers to put people to work.

The parking lot at the CareerCenter was packed, a clear demonstration that many employers are ready to hire and the unemployed are eager for jobs. Many of the cars in that lot belonged to employers, but many others belonged to potential workers. Others looking for employment took the CityLink bus and others walked some distance to the site.

We wonder, though, how many people could not or did not attend the event because they didn’t have transportation to the CareerCenter, located on outer Main Street near Marden’s.

A lot of people who don’t have jobs can’t afford a car and many unemployed can’t afford a bus ticket or cab fare. Others, who rely on friends and family for rides, may not have had that option on a workday morning.

That doesn’t mean these people don’t want to work, it just means they can’t get a ride to the recruiting event.

The CareerCenter, which is part of the Maine Department of Labor, does purchase some CityLink passes for people who use the center to attend workshops or use the computers to write resumes. But there are no such passes for people to attend job fairs.

Mollison Way is about 2.5 miles from downtown Lewiston, and still farther from the residential streets of Auburn. For people who like to walk, that’s a doable distance, but it’s not a distance that every person can manage.

It seems, if Maine is serious about getting people back to work, that when the Labor Department hosts these events it should make it easy — inviting, even — for people without ready or affordable transportation to attend.

CityLink, otherwise known as the “purple bus,” is a project of the quasi-municipal Lewiston-Auburn Transit Committee, and it would be easy for LATC and the state’s Labor Department to work together to offer bus passes for job seekers to attend these fairs.

We’re not suggesting that the unemployed ride free at will, but the point of these government-hosted job fairs is to get employers and job seekers face to face to match needs and skills. If ready workers cannot attend these events simply because they don’t have transportation, employers are shortchanged.

Perhaps more importantly, the public pays by funding continued social services for the struggling unemployed.

Would we, as taxpayers, prefer to pay the occasional $1.50 single ride fare so someone might find a job, or pay for a week’s worth of general assistance for someone who can’t get a ride to fill out a job application and jump back in the labor pool?

— Sun Journal, Lewiston (Sept 18)

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