Seafront queues at Hastings job fair

Job seekers get advice at the jobs fair
Job seekers get advice at the jobs fair

LOOKING for a job can be a full-time occupation in itself.

It involves long hours writing letters to prospective employers, trawling through job vacancy sections of newspapers, and nail-biting days spent waiting to find out whether an application has been successful.

For many, especially in the last three years since the recession took hold, it has been one long hard slog, coupled with disillusion.

In Hastings, almost seven per cent of people of working age are out of work and almost 3,100 are on Jobseeker’s Allowance, according to latest figures from April.

The town’s unemployment rates are the highest in the south east and Hastings has the unenviable position of being the 19th most deprived town in the UK. Just four years ago it was the 31st.

The Sun newspaper set up a series of job fairs and recently spent a week touring unemployment black spots around the country in a bid to help those trying to escape the throes of unemployment.

The roadshow came to Hastings on Friday, May 13, and more than 1,000 desperate jobhunters queued all along the seafront to get into Azur, Marina Pavilion, the venue where it was held.

It was reminiscent of one of the long queues of unemployed workers which were a common feature during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

At the jobs fair, employers from Morrison’s, Hastings Direct and representatives from Jobcentre Plus were there, and were swamped by desperate people searching for work.

Visitors also were given CV advice and help fine-tuning their interview techniques.

One of those who went, eager to get back on his feet was 27-year-old Michael Shaw, from Ore, who has been struggling to find employment for several years, largely because of the economic downturn and recession.

He said: “I’ve done everything, from going to jobs fairs to looking through the Friday Ad.

“I’ve applied for loads of jobs and sent off applications to at least 20 in the last six months alone, all without success. It’s been extremely difficult because of this recession.

“I’m a painter and decorator by trade but there is no business out there as no one wants to spend any money doing up their houses. Work has been on and off for the last four years.”

It was not just local jobhunters who went on Friday.

Determined Sebastian Willerton, along with his friend Chris Horner, pedalled on his bike all the way from Middlesbrough in Teesside to look for work.

Mr Willerton, 30, landed an interview with Morrison’s on Monday after being out of work for two years.

Danny Irvine, 17, of Little Ridge Avenue, St Leonards, has battled to find work since he left school.

He is currently studying at Sussex Coast College Hastings and looking for an apprenticeship to become a qualified plumber but is having no luck finding part-time work in the meantime.

The teenager said: “I’ve not had any luck looking for an apprenticeship either. Hastings is not a very good place to find work, making it really hard to get a job. The jobs to not come to you, you have to look and apply for them.”

It could soon be even harder for people in Danny’s age group to get the help they need in finding work, as funding for the Connexions service in East Sussex, which offers careers guidance and skills training, is being significantly cut.

Around 50 staff now face the grim prospect of possible redundancy.

At Friday’s roadshow visitors had the chance to meet high-flyers like Apprentice stars Michelle Dewberry, Tim Campbell and Jo Cameron.

Mr Campbell, 31, who was the first champion in 2005 in Lord Alan Sugar’s The Apprentice, was full of praise for those who stopped at Azur.

He said: “I heard some really good stories from people who were determined to find work. There are a lot of people in Hastings who are dispelling the myth that the town is full of a lost generation of people not working.”

Mr Campbell, set up the charity Bright Ideas Trust, to help young people turn their ideas into a business.

He urged jobhunters in Hastings to be “tenacious” and “not give up”.

Morrison’s chief executive Dalton Phillips said his firm had more than 150 vacancies up for grabs at Friday’s jobs fair and said he got a lot more interest from potential applicants than he believed he would get. Our three key qualities we look for are attitude, ability and ambition, and that certainly was in abundance in Hastings,” he said.