Bonnie Cowan is far from old.
But the 42-year-old Tillsonburg resident is experienced enough to have seen better days in the employment market.
"I think I was making more in '89 than I do now," said Cowan as she browsed through the various booths at the combined community job/services fair inside the Town Centre Mall Thursday.
"I'm just seeing what all is here," she explained. "Just looking at things that might help my parents, or other friends I know."
Although more interested in the services sector, Cowan did make a pass along the job fair section.
She had been employed at a plant in Tillsonburg, said Cowan.
"And they closed - it's a big eye-opener, it definitely changes your lifestyle, that's for sure."
Cowan is currently employed, although out of town for considerably less money, a reality she believes she is not alone in facing.
"The rate of pay went down, it's not at all what it used to be."
She graduated from a trade college program as a medical administrator a couple of years ago, but has found it difficult finding full-time employment.
"You can't survive on two days a week."
Cowan would consider returning to college for retraining, but financially, doesn't see it as an option at the moment. And more mentally, physically and financially frustrating is the fact that overall, she does not see a brighter future.
"It's not getting better, it's getting worse."
Temp agencies are one option, although not a preferred one, suggested another 'browser' who requested they remain anonymous.
"You've got to pay the bills, what are you going to do, go on the street? The only advantage is, they find you a job, the disadvantage is, you're the working poor."
Their previous work experience had been long-term, unionized employment in Tillsonburg.
"Now you've got to take a job for $12 (an hour) and work three times as hard - no benefits, no holidays, no medical, no pension."
Twenty-one-year-old Dylan Butcher was also among the browsers, "looking for a job," following graduation in April from the electrical techniques program at Fanshawe College.
Butcher has struggled finding an electrician with an available apprenticeship slot. Given financial pressures including student loans and vehicular expenses, he is hoping to avoid part-time or temporary employment and has dropped off around 10 resumes in locations in and around Tillsonburg.
"I want to get a job that is full time and permanent."
Ed Klassen, Marwood Training Centre Training Facilitator, has been on both sides of the table. Thursday, he was primarily representing Marwood Metal Fabrication Ltd.'s training facility (providing outside training for skills including forklift and scissorlift drivers) at a booth, but was also accepting resumes.
"Looks pretty good, a lot of good traffic," he summed up. "We're getting some good resumes in here.
"We do need people, I'm hearing they're busy."
Klassen has been with Marwood for 14 years, but remembers his own prior job shopping experience.
"I have looked before," he said, understanding the process can be a little tough and a little frustrating. His advice is to get experience in as many areas as possible, education is always good, and it may be helpful to pad a resume with volunteer experience.
"And keep looking," he said. "It's a little tough breaking into the job market, but that's what these things are good for.
"There are people (companies) out there looking, and there are jobs to be had."