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Monday, Nov. 10, 2008

Lab Job Fair Draws 1,000 Applicants

By Jeff Miller

Numerous media outlets covered the job fair, including KRON, which is conducting an interview with Human Resources Head Vera Potapenko.

They came by car and bus, some wearing suits and ties, others clad in rain jackets. Some came with children. Others brought friends or spouses.

But as they strolled into Berkeley Lab’s first-ever Job Fair on Saturday -- resumes in hand and smiles on their faces – the more than 1,000 applicants had a single refrain. “I’m looking for work.”

It was music to the ears of Human Resources head Vera Potapenko who, together with 50 volunteers from her department and others at the Lab, sprang into action several weeks ago at the request of Jennifer Ridgeway, head of the Facilities division. Together, they decided on the high-profile event to jumpstart hiring for more than 150 openings, 65 of which are for administrative/operations positions.

Nearly 1,000 people attended the job fair.

“We expected that with the country’s and state’s jobless rate rising, there would be a lot of interest in our vacancies,” says Potapenko.

Potapenko’s expectations were right on target. Not only did applicants spill into the cafeteria all afternoon at a steady pace, so too did camera crews from five Bay Area television stations, eager to tell a more hopeful story amidst the grim statistics. The station list included KPIX, KRON, KNTV, KGO and Univision. KCBS reported live from the event as well.

“While we were eager to meet all applicants, we were most interested in those who could fill our open positions in Facilities and Environmental Health and Safety,” says Potapenko. “These are the people who keep the Lab running, the bus drivers, plumbers, industrial hygeniests and others.”

Job applicant John Paschall with his daughter Elizabeth.

One such candidate was Crockett plumber John Paschall, who heard about the job fair from a Lab employee.

“I had never been up to the Lab before and I was curious. I had no idea it is such a great place to work. I had a very professional conversation with one of the recruiters, who really made me feel at ease. I really hope something works out.”

Tyler Ecoffey, a financial and business analyst with an interest in web development, had a similar experience with the volunteers. “Everyone has been very helpful and friendly

Potapenko’s team must now review the surge of resumes, compare notes on potential candidates and match them with openings.

“The resumes will take quite a few days to review, but we’re hopeful that we found some qualified people who will one day be here.”

Is another job fair a possibility? “Absolutely,” says Potapenko. “This is a great place to work and we want to keep getting the word out.”