New and old Hanford workers show up at TRAC job fair

A mix of longtime Hanford workers and Tri-City newcomers who hoped temporary work would lead to permanent jobs filled TRAC in Pasco on Friday.

The job fair for displaced Hanford nuclear reservation workers had drawn more than 1,000 people looking for work by midafternoon.

They were among up to about 3,000 workers who lost their jobs starting last spring or who may lose their jobs in the next 13 months.

Travis Trulson is one of about 1,650 workers expected to lose their jobs Sept. 29. He was hired to work in waste operations at the Plutonium Finishing Plant in 2009 as Hanford hired up to spend $1.96 billion in federal economic stimulus money to accelerate Hanford environmental cleanup.

Trulson left a temporary job at Areva as a nuclear ceramics operator to become a nuclear chemical operator at Hanford, a job with better pay, he said.

He took the Hanford job knowing it also likely was temporary, "but I was hoping it wouldn't run out so fast."

But he made good use of his two years at Hanford, wiping out his debt.

Now he is willing to relocate anywhere and try his hand at anything, although he's best qualified for operations work, he said.

For Paul Crowley, it's a different story.

He has lived in the Tri-Cities for 30 years and took what he believed would be a permanent position as a waste specialist at Hanford two years ago.

Before that he had worked at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Benton Franklin District Health Department.

He is hoping to be able to stay in the Tri-Cities, where his children are in high school. But "there's a tremendous amount of competition," he said as he stood in a busy aisle of the job fair where more than 120 vendors had set up booths.

He is hoping that his diverse background, with a career that's included much more than Hanford experience, and his education will give him an edge. He has a master's in environmental science and is working on a doctorate in public health.

Stephen Gunn also is leaving Hanford on Sept. 29 after 33 years as an employee at the site, including 26 years at the Fast Flux Test Facility.

Most recently he has been working as a first-line supervisor in building administration.

He still is considering his options and has scheduled a meeting with a financial adviser, he said. Relocating to find another good job that uses his maintenance and operations skills, doing contract work or retiring early are all possibilities, said the 57-year-old.

He and his wife moved into a custom-built home in West Richland just eight months ago.

Others at the fair had yet to set down roots in the Tri-Cities when they learned they would be out of work.

Charles Reed worked for 17 years at the Department of Energy's Rocky Flats, Colo., site before environmental cleanup was finished.

He has kept his house in Denver and has lived in an apartment during his second stint at Hanford in the past eight years. Since last year he has been back at Hanford doing waste characterization work, a job he thought would last longer than it did, he said. His earlier stay in the Tri-Cities also ended because work ran out, he said.

Ideally, he would like to live in Denver, but more realistically he thinks he might be able to find a job at Los Alamos, N.M., he said.

Shon Cleveland said he knew the job was temporary when he started working at Hanford a little more than a year and a half ago.

But that has not reduced the stress on his family of not knowing where the next paycheck is coming from, he said.

He found work as a senior radiological controls technician at Hanford after substantial experience as a nuclear mechanic for the Navy and kept his house in Bremerton, he said.

He's optimistic he will find another job soon because of his experience, good attitude and professional appearance, he said. He came to the job fair in a suit and tie with his hair neatly cut short.

Cory Saget had already been offered one job before Friday's fair, but had turned it down. A construction manager for about 18 months at Hanford, he had been offered a job related to the nuclear reactor disaster this spring in Japan. But he learned he would be leading a team that did not speak English in a potentially hazardous area.

"There's no hope I'll find anything local," he said. So he's packed up his belongings and is "passport ready," he said.

Some of the jobs being promoted at the Friday job fair were local. For example, the Department of Health's Office of Radiation Protection has some openings because of recent retirements.

But many booths were recruiting for jobs out of town or for jobs that would only be available if companies won contracts on which they were bidding.

Barrick North America's booth was drawing a steady line of applicants as candidates were being scheduled for interviews at the Pasco Red Lion Hotel.

The Salt Lake City-based company is the largest gold producer in the world, with mines in Elko, Nev., said recruiting manager Dana Pray.

It's hiring many engineers plus skilled workers such as electricians and mechanics, she said. Barrick was making job offers to hourly employees Friday and arranging interview trips for other positions, she said.

The quality of applicants was great, she said. But she estimated only about 30 percent of the workers she was talking to were enthusiastic about relocating and the rest would prefer to remain in the Tri-City area, she said.