BWI adds check-in for job openings


At these ticket counters at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, you can't get a reservation. But you can leave with something else: job prospects.

Anne Arundel County officials will open a career center tomorrow designed as a clearinghouse to help job seekers find work at the airport. It joins a small but growing number of employment sites at airports around the country where economic development officials and nonprofit groups try to find workers for what essentially is a small city.

"BWI represents one of the largest concentrated employment sectors in the state," said Andy Moser, president of the Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corp., one of three partners in the project. "It's a treasure trove of employers."

More than 10,000 people work at BWI for about 200 employers, ranging from airline carriers to freight companies to retail and food vendors. Anne Arundel Workforce Development officials say the career center will meet the growing needs of the airport labor market: employers looking for qualified candidates - especially for high-turnover positions - and job seekers who want easy and centralized access to openings.

Also, county officials expect the career center to be a resource for new and current residents traveling to and from BWI.

The center will operate on a $290,000 budget during the next year and will be financed with county, state and federal tax dollars.

BWI has grown rapidly. Its economic impact in the county is estimated to be $2.7 billion annually with the creation of 104,000 direct and indirect jobs, according to Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp. A new concourse opened in the past year. New restaurants and shops were added and more are expected. BAA Maryland Inc., local arm of the British company that oversees the airport's concessions, said the career center could help its retail vendors with hiring.

Although employment in the airline and its related industries has dropped sharply since 2001, the job market is slowly rebounding, said Dan Kasper, managing director of LECG, a Cambridge, Mass., consulting firm that tracks the airline business. Airports are seeing an uptick in passenger traffic, good news for businesses there.

"Airports at places where there is significant traffic, which would include Baltimore, are a significant economic engine for the local economy," Kasper said.

"There is a fair amount of turnover in jobs for everything from reservation agents to airport-related people working at the various shops there."

Anticipated population growth in Anne Arundel County - including thousands related to the base realignment and closure process over the next decade - also is expected to spur job growth in and around the airport. BWI sits in proximity to several large employers, including the National Security Agency, Fort Meade and numerous contractors, according to county officials.

Moser, the president of Anne Arundel's work force development agency, said airport employers were looking for assistance in recruiting and hiring workers.

Part of the problem is that job seekers in many cases cannot access retail vendors and human resource offices because they lack security clearance. And they would have to check with each airport employer for job openings.

Clearance needed

Workers at the career center, who will have security clearance, will meet with employers frequently to update job listings. Job seekers who get hired must submit to background and fingerprint checks through the Maryland Aviation Administration and would receive varying security access to the airport depending on the job, spokeswoman Tracy Newman said.

County officials said several employers have complained about the dearth of workers, and the center will work to help recruit and retain employees.

Besides working with employers in coordinating recruiting drives and job fairs, the career center will provide job postings and applications. Maryland Workforce Exchange, a state-run job search Web site, will have a link specifically for BWI-related jobs, Moser said.

In addition, Anne Arundel Community College's Center for Workforce Solutions will work with airport employers to provide specific worker training, including computer skills and customer service, said Laura Weidner, the college center's executive director.

The third partner, BWI Business Partnership Inc., will provide information to job seekers and current employees on public transportation options. Executive Director Linda Greene said the nonprofit group also wants to educate employers on tax incentives related to public transportation use.

Yesterday, airport workers began converting three ticket counters adjacent to American Airlines in the main terminal into the new career center. It will be open to the public Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Job seekers will have access to computers and staffers from the county's work force development office, community college and the BWI Business Partnership.

Looking for agents

Southwest Airlines, which is BWI's largest carrier, said it is looking for about 50 ramp agents, or baggage handlers, in this market. The airline held several job fairs last year, including at its offices on Air Cargo Drive, at the edge of the BWI complex.

"It's another avenue to advertise our jobs," spokeswoman Whitney Eichinger said.

Cities around the country with airport employment centers include Denver, San Francisco and Seattle-Tacoma. Officials at those centers said they are seeing positive results.

The employment center at Sea-Tac International Airport opened in 2000 to meet increasing demands for workers, said Susan Crane, executive director of Port Jobs, a nonprofit agency that operates the center and receives funding from the Port of Seattle.

Last year, the center helped 1,600 people find work in ground service companies, flight food preparation, shuffle and parking services, and rental cars. The office also had more than 19,000 visits, Crane said.

"Airports have all the different kinds of jobs you could find in a small city," Crane said.

Airport career centers

San Francisco International Airport



Location of center:

In terminal

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport



Location of center:

In main terminal

Denver International Airport



Location of center:

In main terminal

Los Angeles Inter- national Airport


Several years ago

Location of center:

One block from main terminal on LAX property

Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport


Tomorrow in main terminal

Location of center:

Adjacent to American Airlines ticket counters

[Source: Respective airports]

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