(Background sound, crowded room)
Hundreds of people are packed into this Clear Lake storefront office. Many are typing at computer terminals or filling out forms at tables. Most are standing in a blob of crisscrossing lines, hoping to set up job interviews.
But this is no ordinary job fair. There’s a single employer here today — Halliburton. And all of the job applicants at the Work Force Solutions Aerospace Transition Center have one thing in common. They lost their last jobs with the end of the Space Shuttle program.
Mary Ellen Bruce was recently laid off from Houston-based contractor Bastion Technologies.
“I was a publication manager for Flight Data File. We produced all of the training documents for the astronauts. And once the shuttle was gone, so was I.”
Most of the ex-NASA employees and contractors here come with highly technical backgrounds – from chemists and electrical engineers to IT and logistics specialists. Jennifer Benjamin worked for NASA for five years as a safety engineer.
“They have a few job postings, Halliburton does, that I’m somewhat qualified for. I don’t have any oil industry experience, but they say they’re looking for transferrable skills, which I have. So, hopefully they see it.”
Transferrable skills are why Halliburton is looking to these former aerospace workers as a solution to its own problem. Ron Morgan is one of the hiring managers at the job fair.
“NASA and aerospace is in the business of working at having the brightest and the best in science and technology people. If you think about exploring space, going where nobody’s gone before — our industry is now having to go where no one’s gone before. We’re having to go to new depths and to drill in reservoirs that are considered much more complex and much more difficult.”
Even at the best of times, there’s often a mismatch between the number of job opportunities and the number of workers.
Halliburton is looking to fill about forty openings at this event. Organizers expected just over 100 people to show up. About 250 responded. Marisol Espinosa is a Halliburton spokeswoman.
“When you see that amount of people unemployed, it breaks your heart. But at the same time, the good news is that we have jobs that we can offer them, and we’re happy to be part of that story.”
Mary Ellen Bruce isn’t one of the lucky ones this time. The hiring managers for technical writers aren’t here. But she’s sticking around all the same.
“Actually, I’m catching up with folks who also got laid off. I’ve seen quite a few people today that I know from work. And it’s been interesting. We’re all doing different things, and we’re all looking.”
From the KUHF Business Desk, I’m Andrew Schneider.