WARNER ROBINS — As the global economy struggles to pull out of a tailspin, Robins Air Force Base is still looking for qualified people to fill hundreds of jobs, the base hiring chief said.
The 402nd Maintenance Wing, in particular, has open positions and Robins has been reaching out to those with aerospace skills, especially at NASA, said Carl Abernathy, Robins recruitment plans and strategy manager.
“A great bulk of our work here is done by the 402nd. There was a surge in hiring for the 402nd about a year ago. We had 700 open positions established to accommodate open work,” Abernathy said. “We have hired more than half, but we still have hundreds of jobs to fill ... we prefer people with experience in the aerospace field.”
Robins works on C-5, C-17 and C-130 cargo aircraft, along with F-15 fighters. The base is also charged with managing and repairing various electronic warfare kits and pods used to detect and defeat enemy radars.
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Robins has been concentrating efforts on luring NASA space shuttle workers to fill many open jobs, said Abernathy, with three recruitment trips to the Kennedy Space Center area over the past year. The shuttle program is slated to end by the end of 2011, leaving about 10,000 federal and contract workers looking for jobs.
“Shuttle workers have an understanding of what we do here. Many of them already come from military backgrounds, they understand the needs of our mission and the culture of supporting a program,” Abernathy said. “These skills are very transferable.”
But “skilled” is the key phrase, said retired air logistics center commander U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Rick Goddard.
Goddard made a presentation to the 21st Century Partnership, the group that lobbies on behalf of Robins, detailing the lack of experience among base workers.
“More than 22 percent of those who work on the flightline are termed a liability today because they are new hires,” Goddard said. “They don’t have training and experience.”
Goddard said the estimates show new hires are performing just over three hours of work during an eight hour workday, with the goal being at least five. The industry standard is six, he said.
Goddard pointed out that eight hours total of productivity was an elusive goal because of distractions, breaks, training and traveling to work sites.
“The numbers are not saying the workers are lazy. They are saddled with a number of administrative and other requirements that continually draw them away from the flightline,” Goddard said.
Robins officials would not speak directly to Goddard’s presentation or numbers, but did say efforts were always under way to increase productivity.
Across the base, professional jobs are open, Abernathy said, in medical, legal and engineering areas.
“We have the proverbial rocket scientist applying for jobs here,” Abernathy said. “With their situation at Kennedy Space Center, the communities are being hard hit, and with the aerospace layoffs, then there aren’t other jobs to be had.
“In many cases, they have no place to turn. There are no burgers to flip because the economy there is shutting down. Turning wrenches and managing aircraft maintenance is a very viable career option for skilled people.”
To contact writer Shelby G. Spires, call 744-4494.