Truck driver Richard Burton, left, interviews for a job with transportation manager Kelly Hovey during a job fair Friday at Core-Mark in Gardiner. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

GARDINER — On the day before the weekend that marks the unofficial start of summer, Susan Smith and about a half-dozen co-workers spent most of it standing in the Core-Mark parking lot.

They were waiting to see whether their drive-thru job fair would bring them enough applicants to fill the 20 open positions at the company’s Gardiner distribution center on Market Street, just off Brunswick Avenue.

“We really feel with the COVID restrictions lifting that we may see an influx of business that’s pretty much unprecedented,” said Smith, who is the human resources director at the Gardiner facility. “We also ramp up for the summer time.”

People work inside the warehouse Friday at Core-Mark in Gardiner. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Summer is the busy season for the company, which supplies convenience stores across the region with everything from milk to windshield washer fluid to firewood. This summer is expected to be even busier.

The drive-thru job fair is not unique to Core-Mark. Similar events have been popping up across the state as both companies and government agencies try to fill vacancies at a time when because of COVID-19, many people are reluctant to come in close contact with others while applying for jobs. During the events, people can remain in their vehicles while they fill out paperwork.

Earlier in May, New Balance held a drive-thru job fair in Skowhegan to fill openings in its Norridgewock, Norway and Skowhegan facilities, and Bath Iron Works held its own drive-thru event at the Wiscasset Speedway. The Maine Department of Transportation is holding two drive-thru job fairs in Augusta. The first was May 26; the next will be on Wednesday, June 2, at the DOT’s fleet garage on Leighton Road.

Smith said most of the openings are for full-time jobs and come with competitive benefits that include tuition reimbursement. Because of the changing demands of the workforce, she said the company also offers part-time work.

The Core-Mark event drew several applicants over the course of the seven-hour event. One of the first ones was Richard Burton, who drove in from Wayne to apply for a truck driver’s position.

He spent about an hour at one of the tables set up in the parking lot, filling out the required paperwork and he received a job offer.

Operations analyst Heather Furbush serves up hot dogs to co-workers Friday as they wait for applications to come by during a job fair at Core-Mark in Gardiner. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

“All I have to do now is wait for the drug screen and I am on and running,” Burton, 49, said.

He’d heard about the event from his fiancé, who had seen some information about the job fair and passed it on. He said he was familiar with Core-Mark and liked the company so he thought he would apply after taking a break from several years of working 65-hour weeks.

Core-Mark’s state-of-the-art distribution center in Gardiner employs about 130 people. It organized its job fair to fill 20 positions. Most of the openings are for night warehouse positions for selectors who assemble orders for delivery to the company’s customers. Day-shift positions receive the merchandise that’s trucked in and put it where it belongs in the warehouse.

At the Department of Transportation, spokesman Paul Merrill said the agency competes with the private sector and other government agencies for workers. The Augusta events are focused on hiring heavy vehicle and equipment technicians. Those positions are hard to fill in the department statewide, but the need in Augusta is particularly acute.

While the pay is a challenge compared to what the private sector and other public-sector organizations can offer, Merrill said the benefits offered by the state of Maine , including healthcare and retirement, are hard to top.

“There are a lot of good things about working for the state and public service is rewarding in other ways as well,” he said.

Other drive-thru job fairs are scheduled in weeks to come, like the event that Ducktrap River of Maine, a smokehouse, is holding in Belfast on June 4. Merrill said the next series hosted by the Department of Transportation will be held in Aroostook County.

And in Gardiner, Core-Mark may plan another drive-thru job fair because the company still has positions to fill.

“We are leaving no stone unturned right now,” Smith said. “It’s just so hard to get people.”


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