Hundreds turn out for 'Second Chance' job fair in Pacoima

Hundreds attended the 7th Annual Second Chance Job Fair today in Pacoima. It's one of the largest job fairs in San Fernando Valley.
Hundreds attended the 7th Annual Second Chance Job Fair today in Pacoima. It's one of the largest job fairs in San Fernando Valley. Corey Moore/KPCC

With the state's unemployment rate in the double digits, job seekers are looking for work wherever they can find it. An outdoor job fair in Pacoima attracted hundreds of people.

At times it looked more like a country fair than a job fair. There was a DJ spinning old school Isley Brothers singing - what else? - "Work to Do."

And as hot as the weather was, how could anyone say no to a free snow cone? There were plenty to go around.

Richard Perez of Sun Valley may have needed the extra boost. He's 60 years old and he hasn't worked in two years. His home is in foreclosure.

"I've got a master's business degree in business administration," said Perez. "I've been a CPA for 30 years and I can't get a job. I work for myself for 20 years and because I work for myself I'm not eligible for unemployment. I'm not eligible for food stamps – or anything else. And I'm depressed. And life, really, frankly, sucks."

Perez and hundreds of other people, many not even half his age, looked for work at the 7th Annual Second Chance Job Fair. By mid-day, they'd packed the front parking lot of the Northeast San Fernando Valley Work Source Center.

Seventeen-year-old Jessica Montoya was upbeat, although she recently lost her waitressing job. She's determined to find employment and continue her education to become a medical assistant.

"Everyone's nice. They talk, they explain everything," said Montoya. "They show you the brochures, and they give what to write and where. And if you have questions, you just ask them and they're really cool about it, which is fun."

Dozens of businesses and schools – Sears, Home Depot, DeVry University and United Education Institute – showed up to recruit.

Michael Sherwood helps to organize the event every year. He says it began as a job fair that targeted
ex-felons – thus the name "Second Chance."

"It's broader than that, you know, because people are out of work that may not have criminal records or bad backgrounds," Sherwood explained. "And we decided it was a good thing to keep that name in place because everybody's looking for another chance for employment."

Organizers say at least 1,000 people attended the job fair.

California's unemployment rate is just short of 12.5 percent. The federal Labor Department says that's one of the highest rates in the country.

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