Hiram Walker job fair draws 3,000 applicants

Photos by Tyler Brownbridge, Windsor Star. Article originally appeared July 30, 2016. Article originally appeared in the Windsor Star.

The odds of landing one of the 20 available jobs at Hiram Walker & Sons Ltd. aren’t as bad as winning the lottery, but they’re pretty close.

Organizers estimate 3,000 people attended Thursday’s job fair at the Caboto Club, putting the odds of one day punching a time card at the 150-year-old distillery at 1 in 150 — or a 0.6 per cent chance.

The odds of winning $10 on a Lotto 6/49 ticket are 1 in 57 and 1 in 1,033 for four correct numbers.

People began lining up at 8 a.m., almost five hours ahead of the fair’s scheduled start time.

Nathan Jones said he waited in line for over an hour for his interview — and he showed up at 11:30. For most of the day, the line wound its way through the Caboto Club, snaking out the front door and around the side of the building.

“There were about 150 people in line when I got in,” he said. “Later, I peeked out the window and couldn’t believe what I saw. It was nice to know I got in early.”

Jones currently works at his uncle’s farm, supplying grain to the Hiram Walker — what he calls “pre pre-production” work. He’d be able to change his entire lifestyle if he secured a job, he said.

“It would change the way I live, change the car I drive, change the house I live in.” Jones said. “It’d change my thoughts on marriage, kids and everything like that.”

Jennifer Lethbridge was also hoping for a life-changing job offer. She’d moved from Windsor to Calgary during the worst of the recession in 2008, but now wants to move back. She took two and a half hours out of her vacation to drop off her application.

She works as a bookkeeper in Calgary, but said the cost of living in the West is too high. Lethbridge and Jones weren’t the only employed people at the fair, a few other applicants told The Star they were looking to upgrade from their current jobs.

“This job would mean a lot to us. Our family could move back here and actually settle,” Lethbridge said. “I just want a fair shot like everybody else.”

Potential jobs seekers pack the halls and corridors of the Caboto Club as they wait for their shot at 20 positions at the Hiram Walker distillery in Windsor on Thursday, July 30, 2015.                           (TYLER BROWNBRIDGE/The Windsor Star)

Thursday’s job fair is only the first step in a long process.

Participants still need to register online, using a code they received at the fair to show they attended. Candidates will then be whittled down through traditional interviews, said Angelo DeMarco, Hiram Walker’s director of human resources.

It will take at least six months before these applicants start working on the shop floor in early 2016, he said.

“These are highly-skilled manufacturing roles we’re looking for,” DeMarco said. “It’s an automated production process with a lot of high-tech equipment.”

These 20 jobs will help fill positions from production workers’ retirements, DeMarco said. The starting wage is $19.86 an hour, maxing out at $30.50 after eight years.

An average Ontario worker in the manufacturing industry makes $20.81 an hour, Statistics Canada reports.

“These wages (at Hiram Walker) are showing the need for skilled workers,” said Tanya Antoniw, the executive director of Workforce Windsor Essex. “The fact Hiram Walker is hiring in that wage range is excellent to see.”

Potential jobs seekers pack the halls and corridors of the Caboto Club as they wait for their shot at 20 positions at the Hiram Walker distillery in Windsor on Thursday, July 30, 2015.                           (TYLER BROWNBRIDGE/The Windsor Star)

She considers these openings at Hiram Walker as part of the local shift from low-skill manufacturing to skilled trades production.

“It’s very important for us to see the transferability of skills and recognize these are high-skilled positions Hiram Walker is recruiting,” Antoniw said.

This is the second major job fair this week. Henry Ford Hospital hired 54 Windsor nurses at a similar job fair on Tuesday. Antoniw said her research suggests these are a few opportunities for people looking for work.

Eighty-nine out of the 99 businesses who responded to a recent Workforce Windsor Essex survey, reported a need for more people, Antoniw said.

“Job fairs are starting to come up very rapidly. Whether it’s seasonal work or full time,” Antoniw said. “I think there’s a place for everyone in this job market.


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