UNION COUNTY, N.C. — Union County Public Schools will hold a job fair Wednesday to fill dozens of much-needed positions across the district.
The fair will run from 9 a.m. to noon Wednesday at the UCPS Transportation Center on Goldmine Road in Monroe.
The 53 public schools, which educate roughly 41,500 students, need candidates to fill roles in food service, transportation, custodial service, facilities, after-school programs and to serve as substitute teachers.
What You Need To Know
UCPS looking to fill dozens of open jobs across a variety of services with job fair on Wednesday
Custodial service manager says he needs to fill 58 vacancies
Union County Public Schools and other counties have implemented raises, bonuses and other incentives during the pandemic in an effort to keep staff
The district’s online application portal lists hundreds of open job positions. Those listings do include teaching roles, which is not the focus of Wednesday’s job fair.
The district’s custodial manager, Juan Fernandez, said he needs to fill 58 full-time positions across his custodial teams in district schools.
Compared to pre-COVID-19 years, Fernandez said the need for applicants has quintupled. Fernandez, who started as a custodian in 2008, took over as manager in 2018. In 2018 and 2019, he said it was more typical to have five to 10 positions open each summer, not the current 58.
“The pandemic has changed everything, ’cause a lot of people … we lost a lot of people to retirement. A lot of people were, I guess they panicked. They left for other jobs. It has changed a lot. When the pandemic started, we started getting … the vacancy rate jumped up,” Fernandez said.
Despite the challenges of hiring in the pandemic, Fernandez said the job is a good opportunity for advancement, benefits and friendly schedule.
“I have enjoyed it. It’s a good schedule, it’s Monday through Fridays. You have the weekends for the family. At the time I started I had little kids,” Fernandez said. “It’s flexible because you have time for your family too.”
The various roles within custodial service are full-time and usually evening shift positions starting at $15 an hour with no experience. Fernandez added shifts usually start at 1 or 2 p.m., depending on the school, and end at 9:30 or 10:30 p.m.
At Marvin Ridge Elementary School, lead custodian Scotty Little said the daily shift is spent keeping hallways and classrooms clean for students and staff.
“It provides a clean and safe environment for the kids for learning, and I like working here because it’s given me an insight — keeping me abreast of what’s going on with young kids of the day, what’s being taught to our students,” Little said while taking a break from cleaning the hallway floor.
Little has spent a decade cleaning the halls of Marvin Ridge Middle, the first and only school he’s worked at in the county.
“I was working a job and I got … I can say laid off, but they closed down Sears. Closed down, and I came here. Friend of mine recommended me come to work here,” Little recalled.
He, like Fernandez, started as a custodian, helping clean windows, vacuum floors and empty trash cans to keep classrooms tidy.
Ten years later he oversees a small staff of custodians at the school and said he enjoys it and has no plans to transfer closer to home in Monroe.
“The advancements was pretty quickly if you come to work, do what you’re supposed to do and mind your own business, you will get promoted. Advancements, as far as promotion and salary, within the last year we’ve had numerous bonuses and salaries. So, it’s … I’m very appreciative of it,” Little said.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, school districts across the state are wrestling with decisions on raises, bonuses and incentives to retain non-certified staff members. In Union County, the UCPS school board already approved raises for staff like school bus drivers and food service workers and also provided retention bonuses during the school year. Other counties, including Mecklenburg, Stanly and Buncombe, have taken similar steps.
“Well it’s good benefits, it’s a good career, movement. You can work 20-25 years and have your retirement. Get a chance to meet new people, new teachers, and learn. I learn as the kids learn,” Little added.
And, Little said if you’re a parent like him it’s a good chance to get a front-row seat to what your children and their friends experience every school day.
This is not the first time UCPS has held career fairs to fill non-certified positions during the pandemic. Before last school year, it held an event to hire much-needed transportation employees. However, the district still had to make several changes to the bus program to cover shortages.