Business

Laid-off aviation workers, others flock to job fair

Job seeker Mike Hoskinson visits with Shannon Underhill with Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. during the National Career Expo at Century II on Tuesday. (April 6, 2010)
Job seeker Mike Hoskinson visits with Shannon Underhill with Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. during the National Career Expo at Century II on Tuesday. (April 6, 2010) The Wichita Eagle

Mike Hoskinson has been looking for an aviation job since he was laid off from Boeing Wichita in January.

"I just had another year and I could have retired," said Hoskinson, who had worked more than 20 years at the company as a technical designer.

Veterans and relative newcomers to the aviation industry dominated the hundreds of job seekers who turned out Tuesday for the National Career Expo at Century II Exhibition Hall. The job fair was sponsored by The Eagle.

For Hoskinson and others like him, there were plenty of aviation companies taking applications at the expo.

Problem was, none of them were from Wichita.

"The Wichita market is really tight," said Hoskinson, who was waiting in line with about 14 others at the Gulfstream Aerospace booth. "All the (job) offers I've received have been from the East and West coasts."

The Wichita native would like to stay here.

"I will (move) if I have to, but I really don't want to," he said.

Kenneth Burge wants to stay in Wichita, too, but that didn't stop him from talking to company officials at Piper Aircraft.

Four years ago Burge started taking classes to get his airframe and powerplant mechanic's license.

And he had a good job at Eaglejet Aviation until eight months ago, when he was laid off.

He was looking for a full-time position Tuesday. He said there's a lot of temporary, contract jobs available. But he wants the security of a full-time job, with benefits, and the stability of going to one place for work day after day.

"I've got a family to take care of," Burge said.

Tamara Williams was looking for anything she could get in the aviation field. She was laid off a year ago from Bombardier Learjet.

Williams recently returned from South Carolina, where she worked two months in a contract position as a sheet metal worker for Boeing.

"There's quite a few positions (for contract work), and it pays very well," said Williams, who said the pay is probably good because there are no benefits in a contract position.

Like Hoskinson, she has had a tough time finding an aviation job in Wichita. "Here, it's not good," she said.

That's why she was waiting in line at the Lockheed Martin booth, hoping to find another contract position.

But not all of the job seekers were there for aviation jobs.

Raheem Vargas said he was there to fill out several applications, hoping to find a full-time position in sales or marketing. But he'd basically take anything where he could work full-time.

"It's really hard these days," Vargas said.

He has a job but says it's a part-time position for a retailer.

And, he says, the wages he earns don't provide for "a real comfortable living."

  Comments