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Seasonal workers help manage holiday rush

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- "Every day we get closer to Christmas it's getting crazier," said Brittany Anderson, one of many workers hired for seasonal employment across a variety of businesses in the region.

She's one of the seasonal hires at the Trace Fork Target. Store manager Claire Lauderman said the company hired seasonal workers around the end of October.

"The timing is to bring people on and train them well enough to when Black Friday hits they are actually well rehearsed in every area of the store," said Lauderman.

This year Target hired employees later than usual, because last year things got to "a standstill at a certain point" and there wasn't so much work demand, Lauderman said.    

"This way you can get as much momentum as you can, without any stalls going into the fourth quarter and Black Friday," she said about this year.

Target's goal was to hire about 75 employees to help with the holiday rush from Black Friday to Christmas, but only hired 45 people, Lauderman said.

Anderson has called West Virginia home for a year now. While Anderson worked for a chiropractor for 10 years and Ticketmaster for a while, she had never worked a retail job. Still, she wanted some extra income for the holidays. 

The 28-year-old has five children to shop for this Christmas. Anderson enjoys shopping at Target and thought she might like to work there, as well.

"This was actually the first time I've left the house on Black Friday because I'm not a Black Friday shopper," Anderson said of the work experience. "It wasn't near as bad as I thought it would be."

Anderson's original plan was to work through the holidays, but she's now hoping to find long-term employment at Target.

Lauderman said Target tries to prepare seasonal workers as much as they can. She added that those applying for seasonal jobs varied widely in age, as some were high school students and some qualify for a senior citizen's discount.

Kristy Walker of Kelley's Mens Shop said in the past, it's typically been high school or college students applying for seasonal work during the holidays.

"When we advertise for full-time positions we typically get older people but for seasonal work we don't usually advertise, [as] people just come in and submit applications," Walker said.

She added that since Kelley's opened a second location on Bridge Road near George Washington High School, it's easier for students to stop in for work.

"All the applications we've received so far for our seasonal employment have been from people under the age of 19," Walker said.

Despite having two shops, Walker said they have not had to hire too many seasonal workers recently.

"Over the last 20 years there's been a decrease. In the late '80s, early '90s, we would have probably 10 seasonal workers. Now we usually have one or two," Walker said.

Walker says the decline in seasonal workers has to do with having a less-occupied space. Kelley's opened in downtown Charleston in a 10,000-square-foot building before moving to a 5,000-square-foot building on the West Side. Its Bridge Road shop is even smaller.

Bunny Harper with WorkForce West Virginia helps connect employers with seasonal workers. Harper finds workers for retail companies like Walmart and Toys R Us, but also works with the United States Post Office, tax services like H&R Block and delivery services like FedEx.

"We deal with a lot of companies and we expect them to roll in about October and then we know it's going to dwindle down by the time it hits Christmas," Harper said. "Those are all good jobs and they're pretty good pay."

People seeking employment working with WorkForce West Virginia can come into the office and fill out an online application for work. Harper said that takes about 10 to 15 minutes.

The application asks for education level, work experience and other qualifications or certifications the applicant may have.

"The good thing for companies is we are like an HR system," Harper said. "We filter through the list so they are not getting the ones that don't qualify but only the ones that do."

At that point, Harper said companies then contact WorkForce and choose the applicants they want. Sometimes Harper said the holiday jobs turn into year-round work.

"That's our ultimate goal, to be able to get people back into society [and be] able to be productive and earn an income," Harper said.

Harper said they have a wide variety of job seekers but volume tends to increase around the holiday season.

"Job applications do pick up around the holidays and I think a lot of it is you have a lot of school people, college kid types that are out for those holidays and are looking for jobs," Harper said.

She's been on the job for six years. Within the last year to 18 months, Harper has noticed an increase in job listings.

"There was a lapse period there where I think everybody was scared employers weren't posting positions like they normally do," Harper said. "Employers were really taking their time and going slow but now all that has stopped in the past year."

Job postings, seasonal or otherwise, are continuing to increase as the economy recovers from the recession, Harper said.

"Some of the employers are posting more than normal and it seems like it's different sectors," Harper added. "Retail and restaurant sectors -- all those seem to have doubled." Reach Caitlin Cook at caitlin.cook@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.


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