March 15, 2004
Cowley technical students participate in annual job fair
NDT students Tony Garlick, left, and John Leach talk to John Mars about employment possibilities at Air Capital Plating.
Perhaps it's a sign the economy is taking tiny steps toward recovery. Or maybe a handful of area employers just wanted to meet several dozen students who are about to graduate.
Whatever the case, seven local and area industries, plus Pittsburg State University, set up booths at Cowley County Community College's annual Industrial Technology Job Fair held Thursday in the Earle N. Wright Community Room inside the Brown Center.
Boeing, Cessna, BAE Systems, Funk Manufacturing (a division of John Deere located in Coffeyville), Creekstone Farms LLC, Air Capital Plating, and Koch-Glitsch, Inc., were represented at the two-hour fair, which wasn't held last year because few industries were hiring.
Several industries were accepting applications and resumes on Thursday. Terri Driskell, who works in employee records and relations for BAE Systems in Wellington, said business was starting to pick up for the company.
"Cowley has always sent us good people out of the machine tool program," Driskell said. BAE has immediate openings for three to four machinists, a couple of people in assembly, and a couple of people in quality assurance, Driskell said.
Employment at the Wellington plant is around 285, she said.
Dan Squires, Cowley's machine tool technology instructor, said about half of the 14 or 15 students who will graduate from his program in May have jobs.
"They may change jobs because some companies are offering incentives," Squires said. Squires said there would be a huge demand for qualified machinists within the next 10 years.
"The biggest problem nationwide is that the average machinist is 55 years old and is getting ready to retire," he said. "Out of the 450,000 machinists in the United States, 55 percent are close to retirement age. During the next several years, that's going to have an affect on the job market."
Lupe Lopez, employment coordinator, and Shana Drake, communications coordinator, were part of the team representing Creekstone, which operates a plant on the north edge of Arkansas City. They also were looking for workers.
"Right now we have about eight to 10 quality assurance positions open," Lopez said. "We're looking for people who have at least 12 hours of college credit for those lab positions. They would need math and biology or chemistry. We're also looking for people with mechanical skills such as welders and electricians."
Lopez said Creekstone also is seeking production workers, particularly in ground beef and shipping, who would receive on-the-job training. Cowley also could provide, the women said, maintenance and management support positions.
John Mars of Arkansas City enjoys participating in Cowley's IT Job Fair. He's a 1997 graduate of Cowley's non-destructive testing program and earned a bachelor's degree in 2000 from Southwestern College. Mars was hired at Air Capital Plating, a division of Thayer Aerospace of Wichita, in February 2003 as its NDT supervisor. Soon he was promoted to NDT manager, and later was given the additional title of business development manager.
"We have machining divisions in Wichita and St. Louis, and right now I have five openings in the NDT department in Wichita," Mars said.
Mars attends Cowley's job fair because he knows graduates from Bruce Crouse's NDT program are qualified.
"I try to hire from Bruce's program because I graduated from there and I know what I'm getting," he said. On Thursday, Mars was interested in students graduating from NDT and machine tool technology.
Air Capital Plating uses a lot of high-tech five-axis computer numerical control machines that require the operator to have an extensive technical background.
"One thing our company understands is the benefit of an employee with a technical education," Mars said. "They might cost us a little more (higher starting wage), but it's worth it."
Tony Garlick of Wichita and John Leach of Derby were two students who talked with Mars. Both are graduating in May from Cowley's NDT program.
"I started a job yesterday (March 10) at Metal Finishing in Wichita," said Garlick, whose starting wage is $10 per hour. "I'm more interested in getting experience than the money."
Leach, who was laid off from Boeing in December 2001, praised Cowley's NDT program and Crouse.
"I've been doing NDI (non-destructive inspection) for 30 years, but all of my training has been on the job and in the field," Leach said. "I understand a lot because of how Bruce explains things."