Reach out and grab someone

  • Bryan Corliss / Herald Writer
  • Tuesday, December 11, 2001 9:00pm
  • Business

By Bryan Corliss

Herald Writer

SEATTLE — Lockheed Martin beat Boeing for the Joint Strike Fighter contract, and now it’s beating the bushes in Boeing’s backyard looking for workers to fill JSF jobs.

Lockheed was one of more than 60 companies and government agencies recruiting workers at a job fair Tuesday sponsored by unions representing employees at the Boeing Co.

The Machinists union hall in south Seattle was packed for the day-long event, which also attracted recruiters for retailers, pharmaceutical researchers, insurance companies, state agencies and police departments from as far away as Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

Union district president Mark Blondin said he had mixed feelings about the heavy turnout.

"You feel like it’s successful that so many people came, but it’s disappointing that so many people are unemployed," he said.

Lockheed Martin sent two recruiting teams — one looking for workers for the company’s Joint Strike Fighter program in Fort Worth, Texas, the other recruiting for openings at Lockheed’s southern California-based space programs.

Lockheed is hiring 30 workers a day to work on JSF, spokesman Hugh Burns said.

Boeing and Lockheed typically don’t raid each other for talent, Burns said. But aerospace workers aren’t that easy to find, so anywhere there’s a big pool of them looking for work, "that’s a good place to recruit."

Particularly since Boeing has people who worked on their own JSF prototype, Burns added.

"Obviously you’re hiring for skills and technical training they already possess," he said. "If you’re doing it in one place, that’s a trade that’s readily marketable."

Recruiters for most companies said they didn’t expect to make any job offers on the spot. But some said promising candidates could be invited for interviews as early as next week.

Aerojet was one. The Sacramento, Calif., company works on the space shuttle and builds "a lot of the more innovative things we’re sending to Osama bin Laden," said L.D. Kostusak, a test services engineer.

The company needs about 50 workers now, and will hire several hundred more after the first of the year, he said.

Government agencies that support military aviation also had representatives at the job fair.

Perry Shelton was recruiting civilian workers for Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma.

"We have Boeing planes," he said. "We can capitalize on a lot of the technical experience these people have."

But the competition can be tough, said Sally Klein, a recruiter for Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton.

The shipyard recently announced it needs 600 workers in a variety of fields, she said. The response was overwhelming — 3,000 applications for painting jobs alone.

"Three thousand painter applications tells you about the state of the economy," Klein said.

Locally, the Snohomish County Corrections Department needs about 10 workers at the jail — registered nurses, assistants and custody officers, said Sgt. Brad Ream. Boeing people are good hires because they tend to have "fairly clean backgrounds and good heads on their shoulders," he said.

Providence Everett is hiring. The Providence system has several hundred openings ranging from transportation and maintenance to nursing, radiology specialists and administrators, said recruiter Bob Peterson.

He said he talked with several people about using the job retraining money they’ll receive after being laid off to train for health care jobs.

Everett Public Schools also has jobs, said district human resources director Stephen Katz, everything from on-call substitute custodians (starting at $11.83 an hour) to accountants and information technology experts.

Pay prospects ranged widely. While some recruiters promised good money — up to $120,000 a year thanks to generous overtime for Contra Costa County, Calif., sheriff’s deputies, said department spokesman Joe Yukich.

But many acknowledged they couldn’t quite match what the aerospace workers are used to.

Still "money’s not everything," said Shelton, the Oklahoma air base recruiter. His drawing card? Job security.

"Lockheed and Boeing go up and down. People’s lives are up and down," Shelton said. But government layoffs are rare. "That’s one of the reasons I came to work for the civil service," he said.

You can call Herald Writer Bryan Corliss at 425-339-3454

or send e-mail to corliss@heraldnet.com.

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