PORTSMOUTH, Va (WAVY) - Hundreds of people came to Elizabeth River Crossings' job fair on Thursday for the Elizabeth River Tunnels Project.
The job fair was be held in conjunction with SKW Constructors from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Renaissance Portsmouth Hotel and Waterfront Conference Center located at 425 Water Street.
Job seekers met with contractors and subcontractors and participated in on-site interviews.
ERC is hosted the job fair to fill positions needed to rehabilitate the Downtown Tunnel and completely overhaul and expand the Midtown Tunnel. The company is moving forward with the project even though there is a debate over tolling the tunnels to pay for it. The debate is going before the Virginia Supreme Court next week.
There were about six ERC contractors at Thursday's job fair, and there was extreme interest in available jobs. At one point, ERC officials say they had about 300 people come through the job fair in a half hour.
Some of the available positions include the following:
- IT Maintenance Technicians
- System Administrators
- Database Administrators
- Customer Service Supervisors
- Customer Service Representatives
- Office Clerks
- Equipment Operators
- Pile Drivers
- Concrete Finishers
- On-the-Job Training opportunities
10 On Your Side asked ERC officials repeatedly why they are continuing to hire workers when the tolling dispute is not settled. Officials stuck to the same answer every time: "We are still delivering the project, and I can't speculate anything that would happen during litigation pending," said ERC spokesperson Leila Rice.
Rice said ERC has a lot of money already in the ERT project. 10 On Your Side asked what will happen if they are not allowed to use tolls to finance the the project, and Rice said she could not answer that question.
The impending court hearing didn't stop hundreds of people from showing up at a job fair.
"The wait was probably like an hour in line," said applicant Shawn Faulks. "The line went up the stairs, wrapped around, and came into this room."
You won't hear applicants complaining, though. No wait is too long for people eager for a shot at improving their lives.
"My livelihood, that's literally what this job means," said applicant Timikia Peden. "It means feeding my family, preparing for retirement, and sending my daughter to college."
"It would be an opportunity to take care of my wife and whoever needs help," said applicant John Murphy.
And, a way out of unemployment -- Murphy has not had a full time job since 2007, and too many other people at the job fair know his struggle.
"This has been a three month journey that I was unprepared for," said Preden. "I was laid off from the joint forces. It's been unexpected and very challenging."
That is why so many people are willing to disregard their feelings about how Elizabeth River Crossings is going to pay for the Elizabeth River Tunnels roadway.
"I'm not in favor of the tolls," Preden said. "That just speaks volumes about the circumstances we're in in this economny."
"A lot of people have kids to take are of, and if throwing a quarter or thirty fives cents in a basket means these people are able to take care of their family, I think that's the most important thing in the long run," said Faulks.
For more information about the job fair and available ERC positions, call 757-932-4400 or visit www.DriveERT.com .
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