Aug. 17, 2002 – About a hundred St. Thomas and St. John residents took the first step in applying for new federal government jobs as airport security screeners — showing up at the Education Department's Curriculum Center on St. Thomas.
The second step wasn't far behind. Almost as soon as they came through the doors at the center in Estate Tutu, they were facing computer screens instead of pages of paper to fill out their application forms.
"We had a really good turnout," said Trishia Romer, one of the aides greeting applicants. "But we had a lot of people who came in that just are not computer literate at all and couldn't even click a mouse button. But then, we had people who are really experienced on the computer and came in and just filled it out in a couple of minutes."
There were no waiting lines. Romer said a number of people who came to the center had already filled their applications out online at the Transportation Safety Administration Web site and simply came in to ask questions. By midafternoon, most of the computer bank stations were filled. Some of those stopping by chose not to wait, instead picking up instructions for doing the "paperwork" electronically at home on their computers.
For Shawn Sabino, the process was "pretty simple," although he said it was the first time he had filled out a form on a computer screen instead of a piece of paper. Sabino said he was looking for a steady job and steady income that he could use to start a family.
The recruitment session was co-sponsored by the Education Department and the office of Delegate Donna Christensen. Applications were accepted online Saturday at the Curriculum Center on St. Croix as well as the one on St. Thomas for what Christensen's aides said are 170 federal jobs in the territory that will pay $23,600 to $35,400. There is an additional 22.5 percent cost-of-living allowance for the V.I. positions.
The number of jobs differs from information released earlier stating that a total of 270 screeners would be hired for the Virgin Islands — 140 for Henry E. Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix and 130 for Cyril E. King Airport on St. Thomas. There was no immediate explanation for the difference in figures, but in either event, the TSA hiring represents a massive increase in security personnel. The are currently 14 screeners and three supervisors on St. Croix and 31 screeners and three supervisors on St. Thomas, all privately employed by a firm contracted by the airlines.
"We had a few individuals who traveled from St. John to apply," Joyce Jackson, an aide to Christensen working at the St. Thomas center, said Saturday.
Jackson said there is no way of knowing how many people in the territory have applied for screener jobs, which the TSA is putting into place at airports across the nation as part of the federal government's response to the terrorist attacks of last Sept. 11. The work involves screening airline passengers, baggage and cargo.
Applicants must be U.S. citizens, speak English, hold a high school or general equivalency diploma, pass audio and visual tests, and able to lift suitcases.
Those who missed the Saturday recruitment can still apply online, Jackson said. Go to the St. Thomas airport site or the St. Croix airport site.
The hiring process includes an extensive background check, she said, and applicants who get through that part will then have the opportunity to attend training at the TSA Assessment Center. Job offers will be made to those who complete training.
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