Jerome Bates is admittedly a happy camper.
Bates moved to Fort Worth on Friday after quitting his job as a tool and die coater in Lansing, Mich., and was offered a job Tuesday at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics during its latest job fair.
“Everybody said it takes a while to get a job, but if you are at the right place at the right time ... ,” said Bates, 42, who has family in the area. “Since I’ve only been here since Friday, you can say that I’m a happy camper.”
Bates was among hundreds who were expected to attend Lockheed’s fourth hiring event at the Sheraton Downtown Fort Worth where the aeronautics firm hopes to hire at least 500 employees to work on the F-35 assembly line as structural and electrical assemblers, aircraft and field service mechanics and coaters.
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About 400 people pre-registered for the job fair and will be coming in throughout the day to apply for jobs, cutting down on the time they wait for an interview, said Ken Ross, a company spokesman. Candidates with experience in manufacturing have an upper hand in getting the jobs, some that can pay up to $75,000.
“Experience is good. Relevant experience is better,” said Crystal Patton, a company spokeswoman. By the end of the day Lockheed had made 652 initial job offers.
At a previous cattle call for potential employees in July, 3,000 people lined up, many in the pre-dawn hours, to seek a job. Only 40 percent of those receiving initial letters of intent actually make it through a rigorous screening process that includes aptitude tests and a background check.
Lockheed Martin is hiring as it prepares to boost production of the F-35 Lightning II fighter. The company plans to hire about 1,800 employees by 2020 in Fort Worth. The plant employs about 14,500 people, including 8,800 on the F-35. So far, the company has hired 435 for the assembly line.
To train its new employees, Lockheed Martin also established a $14 million training program where employees receive the technical skills necessary to build the futuristic fighter.
Dustin Williams recognizes that the company is looking for people with a certain “skill set.” The 24-year-old Fort Worth resident works at Best Buy, but was looking for a job as a coater, someone who will apply high-tech coatings to the stealth fighter. He has experience in home renovation and painting.
“I’m looking for an actual career,” Williams said. “Retail just doesn’t pay the bills too well.”
Dalton Jones came in from Lubbock where he’s seeking a business degree at Texas Tech University. The 25-year-old Marine veteran who worked on air traffic control radars is hoping to be a Lockheed electrician. He was excited that he received an initial offer and would like to make a career at Lockheed.
“Lockheed is such a big company you can move up and move around,” Jones said.