Thousands of people attended two job fairs in the Southland on Wednesday aimed at hiring the first wave of baggage screeners that the new Transportation Safety Administration will need in airports by Nov. 18.
An estimated 2,400 people applied at the Hilton Hotel in Glendale and about 500 showed up at the Sutton Place Hotel in Newport Beach. Another 500 applicants are expected today when the fair continues in Newport Beach.
The job fairs were part of a series that will help fill thousands of positions at local airports. About 30,000 screeners are needed to meet the government's requirement for having all passenger checkpoints monitored by federal screeners. At least 2,000 will be needed at Los Angeles International Airport alone.
The new system takes control from local contractors, who have been accused of entrusting plane and passenger safety to poorly trained, poorly paid screeners.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday August 24, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 8 inches; 310 words Type of Material: Correction
Airport jobs--A story in Thursday's California section incorrectly stated that Julia Bradford moved to Riverside from Nevada. She moved to Riverside from Arcata in Northern California.
Some applicants Wednesday said they were drawn by the prospect of job security.
"I feel that confidence in the private sector is kind of low right now as far as job security is concerned," said Leonard Lauvao, 34, of Santa Ana, who left his job a year ago to care for his ailing mother. Also, he said, "Since Sept. 11, I feel that it's important to be a part of homeland security. I just hope I get hired."
Bill Schiffbauer said he submitted his application partly out of curiosity, but mainly because he was tired of climbing poles to install cable television lines.
Schiffbauer, wearing a hat embroidered with "America, Love It or Leave It," said current screening procedures are a "joke."
"This is different," he said. "Traveling through the airports can be improved."
Applicants must be U.S. citizens; have a high school diploma or a GED certificate; pass drug, physical, vision and hearing tests; and have reading and math skills comparable to a high school freshman. They may apply online at www.tsa.dot.gov.
Local unions representing current airport screeners have decried the process, saying that experienced screeners should be given jobs in the new agency.
Linda Sturges, a retired kindergarten teacher from Canoga Park, was enthusiastic about the job prospects until she heard that the assessment process, including the physical screening, could last up to 10 hours. She decided not to apply.
But Julia Bradford, 23, and her friend were undeterred.
"I heard about this in the news and I thought it would be worth a try," said Bradford, a former casino waitress who moved from Nevada to Riverside on Monday.
"We heard that some people were having problems passing the background checks and we thought, 'Hey, we can pass that.' "