AN astonishing 1,300-plus people attended two open days this week to find out more about job vacancies at Kirkby’s new Morrisons store.
The supermarket is being built on the site of the old precinct and is part of plans to regenerate the town.
And in such a difficult economic climate, folk clamoured to book a slot at the events held by the retail giant on Sunday and Monday at the Summit Centre - with 25 people passing through the doors every 15 minutes.
Ashfield District Council leader John Knight said Morrisons coming to town was ‘great’ for employment in the area and would also breathe new life into Kirkby.
“I think it’s brilliant,” he said. “It’s not just what Morrisons will do themselves, but what they will be the catalyst for.
“Kirkby was stagnant and dying. Without it, it would have been dead within a year.”
Coun Knight said that on the back of the Morrisons development, other big companies such as Boots, Wetherspoons and McDonalds were planning on expanding in Kirkby.
“It will make a massive difference to the town, though it’s not just about Morrisons,” he said, adding that improvements to the road network are also needed and are being sorted out.
The two open days were the first part of the recruitment process for Morrisons, with candidates then having to fill in application forms before being called for interview next month.
Bosses say the number of jobs to be created at the store has not yet been finalised but could be in the region of just under 300.
The store is scheduled to open at the end of January and the firm is confident it will do well.
Said Julie Morris, the store’s personnel manager: “We are excited about opening up a new shop.
“It’s a really good time and good for business that we are growing in this current climate.”
Rose Cooke, manager of Sutton Jobcentre, said Morrisons coming to Kirkby was a ‘notable boost’ for the local jobscene.
“We have been working with Morrisons for the last couple of months to help them fill the vacancies and these open days are the culmination of all the work together,” she said.
“The creation of jobs is superb and we are trying to put local people in those jobs.”
According to figures released by the Office for National Statistics, the total number of Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants in the Ashfield constituency in September was 3,194, or 4.2 per cent of the population.
This is slightly higher than the national average of 3.9 per cent, and around two-thirds of these claimants are male.
Youth unemployment is even higher, with 1,130 of Ashfield’s 18 to 24 year olds claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance in September - 11.3 per cent, compared to a British average of 8.1 per cent.
As part of efforts to get the area’s unemployed back into work, Morrisons and the Jobcentre - working with Nottinghamshire County Council’s Making the Connection programme - have held ‘Pre-Employment Training’ in retail skills for 40 unemployed local people who are then guaranteed interviews for jobs at the supermarket.
Mary Graham, employer and partnership manager at the Jobcentre, said that though it is not easy to find work at the moment, there are jobs out there - particularly in growth industries like the customer service-type work that Morrisons does.
“The flexibility that food retail allows people to have, their work-life balance, is second to none,” she said.
Jobseekers Tammi Brimson (25), Lisa Johnson (35), Adrian Barnes (23) and Marisha Britton (22), all from Kirkby and who attended the pre-employment training, agreed that Morrisons was good for the town and is a welcome jobs boost.
Adrian, who said that looking for work at this time is ‘frustrating’, hopes that Morrisons will help liven up the town.
“It’s not an active part of Nottinghamshire,” he said.
“Sutton is busy and Mansfield is really busy but Kirkby is not.”
“It’s like a ghost town,” added Marisha.
Tammi said that the extra jobs are much needed.
“It’s bringing jobs and we all need a job,” she said.
“It will also be good for other businesses that are in Kirkby and influence other businesses to set up in Kirkby,” added Lisa.