Hiring surge yields lessons and successes, leaders say

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- The Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex's "1,000 hires in 100 days" initiative generated a new pool of nearly 1,400 qualified applicants, a welcome outcome for the ongoing hiring surge at one of the country's largest Air Force maintenance depots, officials said.

"We are extremely pleased with the number of capable candidates who came forward with a desire to work for Oklahoma's premier employer and to proudly help sustain the nation's global air combat power," Brig. Gen. Mark Johnson, OC-ALC commander, said.

"America's mission at Tinker Air Force Base depends on outstanding applicants with experience ranging from entry level to highly skilled," the general said. "With these numbers of qualified candidates and with more job seekers applying every day, I'm thrilled to see that the complex's workforce needs will be met, most likely with room to spare."

Two-hundred ninety applicants were hired during the initiative from Oct. 5 to Jan. 13. The OC-ALC employs about 9,000 people.

The ambitious goal of 1,000 hires in 100 days fell short, but the initiative led to valuable lessons learned that are being adapted at other Air Force installations that are hiring, the general said.

"While the initial goal wasn't met, we anticipate meeting the 1,000 plateau by late May," said Christina Lhamon, Air Force Sustainment Center director of Personnel. "The initiative drove much-needed improvements within the hiring process. The hiring initiatives will continue forward until end-strength goals are met."

The job surge announcement last fall led to more than 2,000 people attending a Nov. 2 informational career fair in Midwest City. The Air Force Personnel Center received 4,747 OC-ALC applications during the 100 days. A total of 1,374 applicants were determined qualified as potential hires, officials said.

The vast majority of job seekers were Tinker-area candidates, but many people applied from surrounding states and nationwide locations, officials said.

One of the standout lessons was the power of social media, said Nicole Gage, fight chief of Manpower and Personnel with the 72nd Force Support Squadron. Current employees spreading the job opportunity message, along with nearly 22,000 visitors to Tinker's Facebook page, were vital in generating buzz about the hiring surge.

"We found that social media and friends and family are the most effective way to reach those seeking employment," said Robert Amundson, 72 FSS Civilian Personnel officer.

OC-ALC hiring professionals also streamlined pre-employment appointments.

"The tool to execute this difficult task was developed locally and is now being benchmarked across the Air Force Sustainment Center," said Dana Crowe, deputy director of Personnel, and David Traynor, AFPC OL staffing chief. "This streamlined initiative alone reduces the hiring time by 10 days and significantly eases the applicants' requirements."

The complex is looking for aircraft and engine mechanics, sheet metal mechanics and aircraft electricians, plus maintenance specialists in 26 other categories. Starting pay ranges from $36,000 to $48,000 a year.

Job opportunities are posted on usajobs.gov. Job seekers can narrow their search terms to Oklahoma City and Tinker Air Force Base. Applicants should pay thorough attention to each position's duties, qualifications and required application documents, hirers said.

"We are certainly looking for experienced aerospace personnel to join our workforce, but we are also looking for individuals with painting, welding, electrical, avionics and other maintenance-related skills," Gen. Johnson said. "We have a robust on-site training program providing hands-on experience to improve the proficiency of new hires in a supportive work environment."