Job hunters vie for 1,200 high-tech spots at Fort Meade event

80 employers offer positions; some openings related to BRAC

March 16, 2011|By Liz F. Kay, The Baltimore Sun

Walter Bowen Jr. was hoping the early bird would catch the job.

The Elkridge resident had arrived at 7 a.m. for a job fair at Fort Meade so he could meet with recruiters before they'd been exhausted by crowds of job-seekers.

"I wanted to be one of the first five people in line — get in there when people are fresh," said Bowen, 39, a Navy veteran.

More than 1,000 people were expected to attend Wednesday's Technical Job Fair, which was open to the public. Some job hunters came from as far away as California and Chicago, said Jerome Duncan, a business work-force specialist with the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

More than 80 employers, including nine federal agencies, were seeking candidates to fill more than 1,200 jobs, according to organizers.

The list included jobs brought to the area by the Base Realignment and Closure process, or BRAC, including positions with the U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency, which is moving from Virginia to Fort Meade.

"We're glad to see so many businesses out here looking to hire," said Kirkland Murray, director of the Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corp.

Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger welcomed the job hunters and praised the companies seeking to hire. Job creation is one of Congress's highest priorities, he said.

"They want to hire you. We want them to hire you," Ruppersberger said.

By midmorning, job-seekers had formed long lines to talk to recruiters for the Army Cyber Command. Col. Brian Moore, the command's chief of staff, said the agency was looking to hire as many as 100 people to build and defend the Army's computer network.

Some job hunters were deterred by the need for a security clearance, which can sometimes be difficult to obtain. As many as 60 percent of the positions offered require a clearance, Duncan said.

Alina Duran, a native Farsi speaker, said some employers were unwilling to talk with candidates without security clearances.

"It's hard to talk without clearance," she said. "Maybe I do qualify, but I don't have clearance."

Rick Unland, 54, came in search of high-tech photography jobs. He had had a security clearance but let it lapse.

Heather Henry, a spokeswoman for the Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corp., said the cost of processing a security clearance varies based on a worker's employer and position. Sponsoring a candidate for a security clearance can be time-consuming and expensive, so employers may seek workers who already have clearances.

Adina Felton, 32, a Washington resident who has been out of work since January, was looking for a contract specialist or program analyst position.

"It's been a little slow, but it's starting to pick up," said Felton, who said she relied on her "great, strong family" to help while she looked for a job.

A number of those speaking with recruiters already had jobs but hoped to find something better. Lisa Dobbins, 35, of Severn said she was working as a computer administrator but had been trained as a computer engineer. "I want to move over that next hump," she said.

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