If you are looking for employment in today’s difficult market, this fair may offer just the ticket — and it’s free! The Cumberland County Department of Social Services (DSS), in partnership with other community agencies and businesses, is holding its Fall into Work Job Fair on Wednesday, Oct.12, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Crown Expo Center.

More than 100 employers are expected to attend the job fair, and employment opportunities span several fields, including business, education, government, food service and hospitality, childcare, customer service, distribution, healthcare and more.

“It is free,” said Robert Relyea, employment coordinator with the DSS. “Anybody seeking a job is welcome to come to this. It doesn’t matter where you’re from. In the past, we’ve talked to people from all over the Southeast.”

“Work First started in 1996, and Gov. (Jim) Hunt wanted all 100 counties in North Carolina through the DSS and Work First program to do an event like a job fair,” Relyea said. “So we did ours, and probably had one of the most successful in the state. Fayetteville Tech was our original partner; in fact, we held the fi rst one at Fayetteville Tech because at the time, we didn’t have our facility set up. We probably had about 45-50 vendors (employers), and we might have had around 1,200 people come through it, which was big back in ’96. We had a much better economy. We decided to keep doing it, and we started doing them here at the agency.”

Over the years, the agency has held more than 20 such events. The original fair took place in March, and after its positive outcome, the DSS offered another fair in the fall, which was also successful. For 10 years, the agency and its partners offered two fairs a year. Their success contributed to the growth and eventual move of the fair to a larger venue at the Crown Expo Center.

“We used to have them down here at the DSS,” said Relyea, “but we basically outgrew our area. Parking became a bad issue, so DSS decided we better find a bigger location for the event. And we went from having around 70 or so vendors per event and really having them squeezed together to having 100-plus with plenty of room.”

The job fair now takes place once a year, and the numbers of attendees and partners have increased as well. Fayetteville Tech has remained a partner, joined by the City of Fayetteville Community Development Department, Beasley Broadcast Group, Inc. and Fayetteville-Cumberland County Chamber of Commerce and business sponsors Fayetteville PWC and Hardee’s restaurants. This year’s turnout is expected to be at least comparable to last year’s.

“Last year, 4,700 people come through the event,” said Relyea. “This year, we’re hoping to be as helpful, although it would be nice to see fewer people. That might mean the economy is a little bit better off. We’re probably going to see around the same number. Things don’t seem, job wise, a whole lot better than they’ve been in the last year. ”

And with competition keen for jobs, Relyea offered several valuable points for jobseekers:

• Bring plenty of résumés and pens, as no resources for making copies exists.

• Prepare a brief statement about yourself. Employers can spend only a few minutes with each applicant. The more concise you can be with what you have to offer, the better off you’ll be because you’ll give the employer that important information right off the top.

• Talk to vendors and understand what you need to do next. Understand each vendor’s hiring practice so you will know what to do.

• Make sure to get a vendor’s name, address and business card. When you leave the job fair, immediately write a thank you note to each vendor for spending time talking with you.

• Dress well –– neat and presentable. Look representative of the type of jobs you’re going to apply for. If that means a coat and tie, that is what you should wear. Avoid large jewelry; be really conservative in dress and accessories.

For more information on a great opportunity to meet many potential employers, call (910) 677-2222 or (910) 677-2177 or visit www.ccdssnc.com/Job_Fair.htm.