- The Washington Times - Friday, January 11, 2002

Laid-off airline industry workers and veterans will be given preference among applicants for the 30,000 new aviation-security jobs the federal government plans to fill in the next few months, Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta said yesterday.
Mr. Mineta joined Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao and Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans as speakers at a highly publicized job fair yesterday at the Washington Convention Center.
Mr. Mineta said many of the nation's current economic and unemployment problems followed "in the wake of the cowardly attacks of September 11." Since then, about 100,000 airline industry employees have been laid off.
The job fair yesterday was one of many job fairs across the United States the Transportation Department is using to recruit aviation-security personnel. However, many of the employers at the job fair were looking for workers unrelated to aviation security.
They included the telecommunications company Nextel Communications Inc., the construction company Cianbro, temporary help agency Kelly Services Inc., Embassy Suites hotels, the FBI, and the District of Columbia Office of Personnel.
Mike Culpepper, who staffed the booth for USA Jobs, an agency that helps place workers in federal jobs, said many of the job seekers asked about positions as medical personnel, truck drivers and sky marshals.
Most of the jobs pay wages ranging from $10 to $15 per hour. One of the highest salaries offered was from the technology and management firm TeAM Inc., which was willing to pay a senior systems engineer as much as $105,000 per year.
The new Transportation Security Administration has about 28,000 of openings for airport screeners. The other openings are for sky marshals and management staff.
The screeners will have starting salaries of more than $25,000 per year, which is a big increase over the roughly $16,000 per year average for private security firm screeners.
"The new agency will be directly responsible for creating a new transportation security force," Mr. Mineta said.
It begins the hiring and training "immediately," he said.
He denied that hiring such a large work force in a short period of time could lead to unqualified employees.
"The screening force will be a highly skilled and highly trained work force," Mr. Mineta said.
To avoid mistakes, the U.S. Transportation Department plans to rely on close supervision and training to ensure screeners do an adequate job of protecting the nation's airlines from terrorists.
The Transportation Department is scheduled to take over airport and airline security from private contractors on Feb. 17.
In addition to discussing jobs, the presidential Cabinet secretaries tried to drum up support for the Bush administration's economic stimulus proposals.
"The president is committed and has shown he is concerned about displaced workers," Mrs. Chao said.
The Labor Department sponsored the job fair yesterday based in part on the success of a similar job fair at the Washington Convention Center last July, she said.
A contributing reason was that the September 11 attack "devastated" the Washington economy, she said.
She referred primarily to layoffs among hospitality, tourism and airline industry workers in the Washington area.
Mr. Evans mentioned the economic stimulus proposals pending in Congress when he said, "The Senate needs to come back and act."
Among job seekers making a tour of employers' booths at the convention center was Elida Cruz, a 20-year-old University of the District of Columbia sophomore majoring in administration of justice. She hopes to become a probation officer but yesterday was searching for any kind of job in criminal justice.
Since September 11, she said she might be more interested in an airport screener job than before the attack.
"It just opened my eyes to see what an easy target we are," she said.
Another job seeker, who was merely seeing what options were available, was a Washington-based airport screener for Argenbright Security, the nation's largest airport-security firm.
He refused to give his name, but said, "I think when the government takes over, it's a good thing. There are too many people in management with green cards."
He was referring to foreign nationals who have Immigration and Naturalization Service permits to work in the United States.
Under the new Transportation Security Administration, only American citizens will be allowed to work as aviation-security agents.
The job fair included training seminars on how to find jobs or improve job skills.
One of the seminar leaders was Robert Tuch, who told job seekers how to advance their careers by improving their computer skills. He is a program specialist for Green Thumb, a job-placement agency.
"It looks to me here like predominantly younger workers," Mr. Tuch said of the job seekers. "I think generally they're optimistic."

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