The lines were long, the sun and temperatures were rising, but Daniel Christenson took a philosophical approach about being among the thousands of people jamming downtown streets Tuesday morning to apply for a job at Lockheed Martin.
A 59-year-old aircraft assembly mechanic from McKinney with 30 years of experience, Christenson said he was willing to leave his home at 5 a.m. and wait as long as he had to if it might result in a job along the plant’s mile-long assembly line.
“It shows interest. It shows diligence,” Christenson said, clutching a portfolio with his résumé inside. “So, I’m hopeful.”
Lockheed Martin held its second job fair in as many months at the Sheraton Fort Worth Downtown Hotel after announcing in January that it planned to hire another 1,800 workers — many of them for the assembly line — to handle growing production of its F-35 Lightning II fighter jet in west Fort Worth.
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The promise that the company would be offering jobs “on the spot” lured people from across the state to a job fair already expected to be busy. When Lockheed originally posted the event on Facebook and other websites a few weeks ago, it had to shut down pre-registration when 2,600 people signed up within 24 hours.
Aircraft assembly mechanic Daniel Christenson of McKinney, in line for Lockheed Martin's job fair in downtown Fort Worth on Tuesday, July 18, 2017, talks about assembling airplanes. Max B. Bakermaxbaker@star-telegram.com
Still, some at Lockheed were surprised to find people lined up around the hotel at 5 a.m. for an employee cattle call that didn’t open until 7 a.m. While they expected to see about 2,000 people, an official said they would likely talk to more than 3,000 by the time interviews were scheduled to end at 8 p.m.
It is just crazy. Looking at those lines outside. I didn’t know what to expect. Crazy is the only word I got,
Paul Black, president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District Lodge 776 at Lockheed
“It is just crazy, looking at those lines outside. I didn’t know what to expect. Crazy is the only word I got,” said Paul Black, president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District Lodge 776 at Lockheed, on Tuesday morning.
But, after thinking about it for a moment, Black wasn’t that shocked, since many of the applicants being hired for the production line will make $44,000 to $77,000 a year, depending on their experience level.
“These jobs are some of the best in the state with the wages and benefit packages. I can understand why people are standing out there trying to get on board,” Black said.
Lockheed was prepared for the flood of people. Besides having tubs of bottled water to pass out, applicants who had pre-registered — meaning they had already undergone initial screening — were hustled through a back door and straight into interviews at appointed times, said Ken Ross, a company spokesman.
If they were lucky enough to be offered a job, they received what was called a letter of intent. After getting that, they will then go through a background check and a drug test and, if everything looks good, could go right to work or be put into a “green pool” to be called within the next several months, Ross said.
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The applicants who did not apply before Tuesday were put into separate lines and went through different doors. One of those lines ran around the north side of the building and connected with another queue that was strung out past the Texas A&M law school and the Fort Worth Convention Center garage.
By mid-morning, the company had closed at least one of the positions it was hiring for and told people in line that if they didn’t have previous experience in the aviation industry or a résumé, they might as well go home. By 3 p.m., the walk-up line had been closed and by 5 p.m. more than 600 job offers were made.
Micah Shepherd of Benbrook said he got lucky. Shepherd said he had not pre-registered, but after showing up at about 5:30 a.m. and telling Lockheed representatives about his previous experience at an aircraft parts manufacturer, he got grouped with those who had pre-registered.
“I’ve always aspired to work at Lockheed and I’m fascinated with aviation,” said Shepherd, who currently works as a sales manager with a phone company. While Shepherd later said he was not offered a job during this job fair, he would definitely be back for the next one scheduled for August.
Not everyone at the job fair Tuesday, however, stood in line for an assembly-line job.
Two women in business suits said they were looking for management positions more in line with the security clearances they have already earned through their current jobs. They didn’t want their names used because of the sensitivity of their current employment.
One of the women attended last month’s job fair only to be told she was overqualified. But she feels so strongly about working for Lockheed that she returned from overseas and checked into the hotel to apply again. “We know what we want in our futures and we’re going to go for it,” she said.
Christenson felt the same way. While he didn’t hear about the job fair until last week, missing his chance to pre-register, he knew if he “got a chance to sit down and talk to someone” that he would be offered a job.
And he was right. After waiting in line for about 9 hours, he was offered a job in structure assembly on the spot. “I feel good. I have a lot of varied experience and it was what they were looking for.”
For Christenson, working at Lockheed will allow him to do what he has always loved to do. And he doesn’t mind the drive, since he’s already driving from McKinney to Denton for work every day.
“I used to build model airplanes when I was a kid. So for me, I’m getting paid for doing my hobby. I like building things, I like seeing the finished product. There is nothing more rewarding than that,” he said.
Job candidates talk about the prospects of working for Fort Worth aerospace company Lockheed Martin before their interviews. Max B. Bakermaxbaker@star-telegram.com