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CTA Job Fair Draws More than 3,000 for 700 Positions

WEST TOWN — More than 3,000 people turned out Saturday when the Chicago Transit Authority hosted its second job fair in as many months.

“It’s the lack of employment,” said Michael Carter, 49, a former pressure washer who’s been out of work since 2010. “Some people aren’t happy where they are. Some people don’t have a ‘where they are.’”

The CTA hopes to hire about 700 customer service assistants, said Seth Wilson, vice-president of human resources. These part-time employees would earn $12-14 an hour directing riders at “L” stations across the city.

The fair, held at Roberto Clemente Community Academy High School, 1147 N. Western Ave., started at 9 a.m.

By 11:30 a.m., more than 2,900 job seekers had already walked through the doors, Wilson said. With lines still wrapped around the corner, he anticipated a finally tally of 3,500 to 4,000 when the fair wrapped at 1 p.m.

Tiffany Moore, 35, a nurse helping her husband find a job, said she waited in line 40 minutes before spending about seven minutes with a CTA representative.

“It was pretty quick,” Moore said.

Wilson called the event a "pre-screening career fair." After applicants confirmed they were at least 21 and willing to undergo background checks, they were assigned test dates — some as soon as Monday, some as late as May 31. If applicants pass the tests, Wilson said, they’ll be brought in for interviews.

“I was expecting something different," said Ralph Miranda, 43, who wore a tie and carried a portfolio. "I thought we'd get a little one-on-one time — maybe even be able to submit a resume."

Miranda has been unemployed for about a year, after being “pushed out” of a job with an oil change company he’d been with for 19 years.

“It was easier for them to hire someone cheaper,” Miranda speculated. “When you’re making more than the assistant manager…”

Tatianna Foster, 25, was similarly surprised at how quickly the process went.

“I actually thought [the CTA] would do the interviews today; I didn’t realize I’d have to wait until May,” she said, waving a May 21 test date card.

Marie Barnett, 58, who’s been unemployed a few weeks, said she liked it better that way.

“It gives you more time to prepare,” Barnett said.

Despite the throng of applicants, some job seekers were able to side-step late test dates — U.S. veterans.

“They’ve served our country and served us,” Wilson said. “The least we can do is give them some preference here.”

The CTA regularly recruits veterans, Wilson said. At a table labeled “Welcome Veterans!” outreach coordinator Charles Thomke verified service and offered test dates as soon as next week.

Veterans who had originally been offered May dates smiled ear-to-ear as they traded in their cards for earlier tests.

In spite of long lines and longer waits, spirits were high at Roberto Clemente Saturday.

Foster called the job fair “a good opportunity” — one of the few the former temp agency employee has seen in a while.

And just about every applicant interviewed by DNAinfo.com Chicago said they were hopeful they'd be one of the 700 chosen.

“[The test] is pretty far off, but it’s worth it,” Carter said. “You need to keep a good attitude.”