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Portland International Airport holds a job fair for people who can make it to the end of the MAX line before dawn.

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JOSEPH GALLIVAN - Managers from Cafe Yummi hoping to recruit at the PDX Job Fair held at Portland International Airport.

It's almost a decade since the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy (Sept. 15, 2008) that ushered in the Great Recession and a painful time of high unemployment.

Even white male unemployment spiked at 9.2 percent in late 2009. With industries shrinking wages and headcounts as fast as they could, all the while offshoring and automating, the country entered a dismal phase of stalled dreams and forced idleness.

Today, with national unemployment 3-9 percent, it's hard work to get someone to even show up for an entry-level service job interview. It's even harder at Portland International Airport, where to work minimum wage at a burger bar or shoe shop you have to pass a security screening and then be able to get to work as early as 3 a.m. with no public transit and limited free parking.

With this in mind, the Port of Portland annually invites job seekers to the Portland International Airport Job Fair. The last one was Wednesday, May 2, in a conference room above the clock

tower, and around 300 people showed up to meet 31 businesses. Employers were offering more than 100 new full-time, part-time and seasonal positions.

Hopefuls went from table to table chatting with employers and filling out applications with ink on paper.

McDonald's was there, of course. Heather Coleman, area supervisor for the burger franchise, which has six locations in the Portland area, had a tote of McDonald's uniforms ready at her side. She had hired nine people on the spot that morning within three hours for the airport McDonald's.

"It's going great. We're always open for applications and looking for hospitable, fun, bright employees who want to work in a fun environment and change things up," said Coleman.

The minimum age they were hiring was 16. That could be customer service, cashier, making drinks. "We want to make the crew person feel comfortable." And if you are super shy? "If you're super shy we might have you back in the grill area, or making frappes, and coaching you side by side to maybe open up a little bit."

Customer service and making fries pay the same — minimum wage, which is $11.25 in the Portland metro region, rising to $12 an hour on July 1, 2018. "We've met great people, I love the diversity here in Portland. It's great to meet people face to face, because we do a lot of online applications, we're hiring them on the spot today."

What does she look for?

"Attendance is a big thing. If you are here and on time, we're willing to work with anything. We can coach and encourage and make you better, but you gotta show up for work."

The managers try to figure out how to help people be on time, with scheduling. Showing up is a problem in general in this job market, Coleman says. And she doesn't know why exactly.

"It's everywhere. They want a job but they have a hard time showing up. I think everybody's got a different lifestyle these days, it just depends."

Anything else to add?

"No. Loving it."

Just looking, thanks

Bridget Stalheim is social media manager for CC McKenzie, a women's shoe and apparel store, a family

boutique with two locations at PDX and one in Bend. They specialize

in business casual to professional. The store is looking for two or three more part-time and full-time sales

associates.

At 11 a.m. it was her turn to tend the table. "We need someone who is energetic and outgoing, because our hours are 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. We have a lot of shoppers flying out at that hour so we need someone with a lot of energy to get people motivated to buy the clothes. Someone hard-working and reliable."

Stalheim herself started out without any experience as a retail sales

associate, and that still holds. On Instagram that day (@ccmckenziepdx) she wasn't focused on posting about the job spots available, it was more about the brands she's pushing in

a sale. Being 22 years old, she does not remember the Great Recession and how desperate people were for any job 10 years ago. After a good meeting at the fair, it would be one or two more rounds of interviews with the managers.

"Experience is a plus, but it depends on the person. If you have a really great interview personality and we can vibe together, then we can see how you fit with everyone else we work with."

Starbucks

Sarah Laudig was with HMS Host, a third party that manages the licensed Starbucks and Tamale Boy locations at the airport. She was seeing a lot of students and people looking for seasonal (summer) work, even though it's not a seasonal business. "Keeping the units staffed is a priority. Seasonal people are beneficial."

A barista starts at $11.50 an hour,

a cashier at Tamale Boy $11.25 or minimum wage. Having worked at Starbucks previously is a plus. "If you are certified as a barista though Starbucks, we can teach you the HMS Host way of doing things, the hospitality side. Being able to have the customer service and work in a fast environment is definitely beneficial."

Laudig was looking for 10 people that morning and had already hired four on the spot. "They had barista experience already and the hours they were looking for fit with what I'm looking for. A lot of times it's tough with the Port because applicants may take public transportation, and public transportation doesn't get here until 5 a.m., and we open at 3 a.m." Staff have to be able to look lively to cater to flyers. "3:30 a.m. for us might be someone's 7 p.m."

They pay in full for the employee parking lot, or $35 towards the TriMet pass. She needs to know their hours. "It's one of the first things I ask. If I can't get them here to open..."

The Port handles the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) background check, which gives everyone who works at the airport a pass to hang around their neck. If someone changes jobs they are already covered and don't have to retake it.

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JOSEPH GALLIVAN  - Jobseekers Salome Denis (right) of Portland was there with her cousin Derma Dareas, who has just moved here from Maui, Hawaii. Denis, 19, already works for a wheelchair company at PDX, and is interested in working for ATS which cleans airplane cabins, before trying to be a flight attendant when she is 21. Dareas loves airports and wants to work for the TSA.

Pacific Time

Jobseeker Salome Denis of Portland was there with her cousin Derma Dareas, who has just moved here on April 28 from Maui, Hawaii.

Denis works for a wheelchair company at PDX. She wants something with an airline, and at 19 she has two years to wait before she can a`pply for flight attendant training. She was also interested in ATS (Airport Terminal Services), which cleans airplane cabins, and might be a step up to being an attendant. Long term, she has her eye on Alaska Airlines.

Dareas says "I really have just always wanted to work at the airport. I really want to do TSA," she says of the high-profile bag checkers.

TSA staff had a table there, but said they were not authorized to talk to the media. (Nor were Burgerville.)

Christine Walbrun, 34, attended the PDX job fair looking for "anything in general," she said. "I currently work as a sales associate for Recreational Equipment Incorporated or R.E.I., and I was recently laid off from Schneider Logistics, which is supply chain management."

She is looking for more of the latter work, but near her home in Gresham. She's also going back to school to study physical therapy this fall and needs to support herself while here.

"I'm trying to seek out something with a little bit more responsibility, but there's not a lot here unfortunately. But it doesn't matter, it's good to meet new people."

She was pleased that she met someone in supply chain at a Columbia Sportswear. Beaverton is too far, but Walbrun is holding out for contacts in the industry, or maybe she can work remotely.

Originally from Green Bay Wisconsin, she said she feels the Great Recession is still going on for someone her age. This is a larger job market, but it's a lot harder.

"I see in my industry (supply chain) a lot of things being automated. Last year, we didn't have to hire another customer representative because we were able to automate that clutch. So, in the future I need to keep changing and keep improving myself."

"For supply chain it's about creating loads. I want to move this from Point A to Point B. It might take 10 minutes to enter manually but now we can set up something in our systems and we can set it up in 10 seconds and do the same thing, with templates."

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JOSEPH GALLIVAN  - Christine Walbrun, 34,  was let got from a supply chain position as that industry has become more automated. She works in retail sales at REI now but was looking for some supply chain management work she can do remotely while she studies physical therapy tis fall. She says physical therapy's human-centeredness makes it a safe bet against automation.

"So we're not creating every load, we're simply saying it's 10 this week of this lane, it's the same freight every time, and for one customer it took our weekly work down from one hour to two minutes' worth of work."

Walbrun is a mountaineer and backpacker who recovered from a bad shoulder injury. To stay ahead of automation, Walbrun's plan is to take up physical therapy. She wants to "cultivate an asset that is never going to go away. It's always going to need a person, the physical and emotional support to help other people. It's customer support but it's always going to be needed."

She has hired people in the past. Resumes are just a tool. More important is the interview and figuring out if someone will be a good fit with their co-workers. Does she have a tip for young jobseekers who may not have seen a difficult job market?

"Dress professionally. I have seen some flip flops. In most workplaces OSHA regulations do not allow them."

Find out more

The remaining jobs from the Portland International Airport Job Fair are posted at: jobs.pdx.com


Joseph Gallivan
Reporter, The Business Tribune
971-204-7874
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