February 04, 2013

Nanotech job hunters flood fair

By: Kristen V. Brown

Source: Times Union

ALBANY — After applying for more than 200 jobs, interviewing for 15 and receiving exactly zero job offers, Matthew Tatum hopes he may have finally landed a gig.

Tatum was among the 800 job hunters who flocked to University at Albany's College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering on Saturday for a high-tech job fair.

NanoCollege officials were hoping to fill 300 positions — a number so high it read like a typo to some unemployed in a grim economic climate.

"There's just not too many jobs out there," said Tatum, 31, an Albany resident. Tatum lost his job nine months ago when the Central Avenue shoe store where he worked closed its doors. Since then, he said looking for work to support his 11-month-old daughter has become a full-time occupation — living off the $110 per week he receives in unemployment in the meantime.

He interviewed for two positions at Saturday's job fair, an IT position, and maintenance work.

"I'm still hopeful," he said.

The NanoCollege job openings are driven in large part by program and facility expansions, including the Global 450mm Consortium, or G450C, part of a $4.8 billion research endeavor by five of the world's largest computer chip companies that will take place at the school's nearly complete NanoFab Xtension.

Many of the open positions at Saturday's fair were for the well-paid technician and engineering jobs that are the backbone of a rapidly expanding industry in the Capital Region.

Just as many though, were for those jobs like Tatum applied for – those that play crucial supporting roles as CNSE expands, such as jobs cleaning the state-of-the-art "clean rooms" where silicon wafers are processed into chips.

With over 3,000 employees and a plan to add at least 1,000 more by the year 2015, the NanoCollege has become one of the most robust hirers in the region. The school's hiring picture seems to buck regional employment trends that are otherwise dour – December's unemployment rate of 7.4 percent for the region was an all-time high for that month, with 32,600 people reportedly jobless and actively looking for work.

Last week, Sematech, the computer chip consortium based on the campus, announced it would lay off 20 members of its support staff, though the NanoCollege said all staff members would be offered other opportunities on campus.

"The reality is that every day there are more opportunities and growth here," said Steve Janack, NanoCollege spokesperson.

Salaries for the jobs being offered range between $35,000 and $100,000. The 800 people who pre-registered for the fair put the event at capacity, so Janack said another fair will be scheduled soon.

So many responded to the school's November job fair, when about 60 people were hired, that the governor's office and state Department of Labor worked with the school to host Saturday's event.

"We have a tremendous amount of talent in New York state," said Leo Rosales, spokesperson for the labor department. "There are skilled, ready to work New Yorkers with a variety of backgrounds and educations. We want to give them the opportunity."

Brandon Stanfield, 29, attended the fair in search of more lucrative career opportunities.

Stanfield currently is employed as a project engineer for the state Office of General Services, where he makes about $60,000 a year. He hoped the job fair might net him an engineering job earning more in the range of $80,000 to $90,000.

"This place seems like a place for advancement," he said. "For opportunity."

Tatum, for one, said he had a good feeling about at least one of his interviews.

"I'm willing to work and I need a job," he said. "I just can't give up."