At 2 a.m., the Matlack family lined up outside of the Sheraton Fort Worth Downtown hotel, hoping for a chance to work at Lockheed Martin on the F-35 line.
Diana Matlack and her daughter, Paige, both clutched résumés showing their training in composite bonding as they sat in lawn chairs with pillows and blankets before the doors opened at 7 a.m.
“I really like the idea of making jets for America,” said 19-year-old Paige Matlack, noting that her father, Tommy, already works for Lockheed as a stealth material coater.
The Matlacks were among more than 1,000 North Texans who lined up outside the downtown hotel on Tuesday for Lockheed Martin’s third job fair this summer.
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The company was looking to hire up to 1,000 people for positions as aircraft mechanics, structural assemblers, electrical assemblers and “low observable material coaters,” who apply the stealth material to the fighter jets.
Lockheed spokesman Ken Ross said the company had screened thousands of applicants who pre-registered for the event and confirmed interview slots for 700. Walk-ins were allowed, and recruiters worked the line to review potential candidates.
“They need to have experience in manufacturing,” Ross said.
Michael Smith drove from Waco with two friends to apply for an electrical assembler position, getting in line at 4:30 a.m.
“I’ve been watching about the F-35 and know the jobs were here, so I started looking for the job fairs and saw they were already full. But I thought I would drive up here and give it a chance,” said Smith, who currently works at L3 Technologies.
He planned to be at the job fair all day and packed cashews to eat for lunch. But by 8:30 a.m., Smith was walking out the door with a letter of intent in hand from Lockheed.
Applicants who received letters of intent for manufacturing positions still need to take a written test and pass a standard background check and drug screen. Those hired for the production line will make between $44,000 and $77,000 a year, depending on their experience level.
By the end of the day, Lockheed recruiters had interviewed hundreds of applicants and had given out 673 letters of intent, Ross said.
Fort Worth resident Jesus Mercado was first in line, arriving at midnight to stake out his No. 1 spot along with his daughter Racine James, who was second in line.
Both made it through the pre-screening by recruiters. But since Mercado had applied for a job at Lockheed Martin recently but didn’t pass the written test, he was told he had to wait six months before he could reapply. James, however, was given an interview and will now take the written test in the next few weeks.
“She got into her interview and the next step is the test,” Mercado said. “She made it all the way to the end.”
Lockheed Martin held a similar job fair in July, where more than 3,000 people showed up. The company offered 850 letters of intent on the spot.
The company is ramping up production of its F-35 fighter jet to fill an increasing number of orders from the U.S. military and foreign allies. The company plans to build up to 160 F-35s a year at its west Fort Worth complex by 2019.
Zach Quinn, who works on C130Js at Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, drove in Monday for the job fair. Since he pre-registered, he did not need to wait in line. However, since he is on active duty, the recruiters turned him away, saying it’s considered a conflict of interest.
“There is a letter I can get signed by my supervisor, but I just didn’t know,” Quinn said, adding he plans to try for a job at Lockheed when he leaves the Air Force at the end of the year. “I’m still going to try.”
This article contains material from the Star-Telegram archives.