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Community colleges pool resources for Asheville job fair

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6/29/2011 - Community colleges pool resources for Asheville job fair
by John Boyle - Asheville Citizen Times

ASHEVILLE -- The sign outside Ferguson Auditorium on Tuesday easily could have read "Teachers wanted."

For the first time, three local community colleges -- Asheville-Buncombe Technical, Haywood Community College and Blue Ridge Community College, in Henderson County -- held a joint job fair, mostly looking for qualified teachers and particularly adjunct faculty.

The job fair drew hundreds of people, an indication of just how stifled the economy remains.

For May, the statewide unemployment rate was 9.7 percent, the third month in a row at that level.

"It's kind of scary. I'm seeing a lot of people with master's and doctorate degrees looking for a job," said Celeste Oprean, dean of business career services at Blue Ridge Community College. "I have the degree, and I have a job, so I feel very lucky."

Organizers of the job fair, held at A-B Tech, said more than 200 people came in the morning session, and they were hoping for at least that many in the evening session. The strong turn-out likely will lead to another similar event.

Between them, the three schools serve more than 48,000 students annually in five Western North Carolina counties, offering more than 70 programs of study. They all rely heavily on adjunct faculty, part-time employees who often teach at more than one school.

For example, Blue Ridge on average employs about 275 adjunct faculty a year, although that number can climb as high as 400.

At Haywood Community College, the salary range for teachers in curriculum areas, in which a master's degree is usually required, ranges from $28.50-$31 per hour of class time.

Over a 16-week semester, that would come to about $1,400 for a three-hour course, said Marsha Stines, director of human relations.

The college has eight-10 openings right now.

"It's probably more part-time faculty -- a little bit of everything, to be honest," Stines said, referring to subject areas.

Oprean echoed that assessment, saying they had openings for workers with experience or master's degrees in communications, nursing, emergency medical services and other fields.

The joint job fair allows the colleges to bring in potential workers at one place, and it's helpful to applicants because some of them teacher at multiple colleges.

Asheville resident Bruce Clyne, 55, worked at A-B Tech for 18 years in security and came out Tuesday to test the waters for a teaching position. He retired from the college in 1998 and moved to Ohio so his wife could be nearer a heart clinic.

When she passed away in 2008, Clyne returned to his beloved mountains, which he considers a much better place to raise his 14-year-old daughter, Faith. His passion is basic education, helping people master the tools they need to reach their dreams, Clyne said.

"I intend to teach for the next 30 years and then have two years of retirement before I die," he said with a laugh.

Like others attending, he was pleased to see three schools in one place.

Some of those who came by just wanted to feel out the local job market, hoping to catch a break.

"We really want to move to the area, and we're having trouble finding jobs," said Patrick Holcomb, 25, who came to the job fair with his girlfriend, Rachel Shenk. They are both graduates of Emory & Henry College in Virginia.

"When you send out all of those applications, and you don't even hear a 'no' in response, it definitely wears you down," Holcomb said.

Holcomb, a Wilmington resident, is looking for something in human relations in the banking field, so he wasn't expecting a big job windfall Tuesday.

Shenk, who lives in Galax, Va., majored in communications, graduating in 2009, but she lacks a master's degree that would make a community college teaching job more attainable.

"It took me a year to find a part-time job in the travel industry," she said. "It's really tough right now."

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