What: Rural Opportunities Summit: A 21st Century Job Fair
When: 9 a.m.-3 p.m. CDT Wednesday-Thursday
Where: Coffee County Convention Center, 147 Hospitality Blvd., Manchester, Tenn.
More information: Rep. Eric Stewart, 931-967-1462; Brenda Cannon, Motlow State, 931-393-1500.
NASHVILLE -- Tennessee politicians have jousted for months over the state's high unemployment rate, with Republicans hosting hearings focused on aiding business while Democrats toured the state last week to hear ideas on fostering job growth.
But state Sen. Eric Stewart, D-Belvidere, and Motlow State Community College have teamed up to put their own stamp on the jobless problems.
The result is the Rural Opportunities Summit: A 21st Century Job Fair, which will be held Wednesday and Thursday at the Coffee County Convention Center in Manchester, Tenn.
Stewart said the goal is to provide the unemployed in the district with assistance in resume writing, interview skills, workplace ethics and other areas. They also will get the opportunity to meet with representatives from companies or agencies, including Nissan, Bridgestone, FedEx and TVA, as well as smaller firms seeking workers.
"When it comes to the jobs crisis in Tennessee, we need all hands on deck," said Stewart.
The lawmaker said many of the seven counties he represents, which include Coffee, Franklin, Grundy and Sequatchie, are struggling with double-digit unemployment rates.
Tennessee's August unemployment rate was 9.7 percent -- above the U.S. rate of 9.1 percent. Grundy County's rate was 12.1 percent.
"And a lot of times I hear from employers that there are jobs out there -- it's just that we're not matching the jobs with the workers," said Stewart. "[There] is a need for skilled labor in many of the new manufacturing companies we have attracted to the state."
Brenda Cannon, Motlow State's director of student and campus relations, said the Rural Opportunities Summit "will affect communities we serve directly. And we want to help move our community forward and do anything we can to offset or impact recession-related job losses."
"Most of these folks [employers] will be receiving resumes from people," Cannon said. "Everybody wants a viable applicant pool. Let's hope it gets people ready to work."
Economist Matt Murray, associate director with the University of Tennessee's Center for Business and Economic Research, said he thinks that in "good times, [job fairs] are extremely helpful" in providing a "pretty good means of matching workers with employers."
In recent years, "we haven't seen the same success" because of the impact of the Great Recession on jobs, he said.
Republican Gov. Bill Haslam recently conducted a three-week tour of the state as part of his Jobs4Tn initiative, where he held a series of regional roundtables with business leaders talking about his effort to cut regulations and other issues.
A number of business executives told the governor they do have jobs to offer, but the problem is matching them with skilled workers or younger job seekers knowledgeable about workplace responsibilities such as being on time.
Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...