The search for employment: Getting hired in community can take work
June 2, 2011
BAMBERG, Germany -- When Courtney Carnes received the phone call asking if she wanted to be a substitute teacher at Bamberg Middle High School, she was overjoyed to say yes.
The call came after almost 15 frustrating months of looking for work here on Warner Barracks.
“The lady who called and offered me the job laughed at me,” Carnes said. “She had never had someone so excited to become a substitute teacher.”
Carnes is one of many spouses who has moved to Germany and is attempting to navigate through the employment system here on Warner Barracks. At times, the process can be frustrating and complex, leaving some spouses angry and exasperated.
“Each job seems to have a different website that you have to apply on,” Carnes said. “It is frustrating and ridiculous.”
But through some knowledge, planning, thinking outside the box, being flexible and having patience, spouses can find jobs within the community.
By the numbers
The employment picture in Bamberg is not significantly worse than anywhere else, but getting a job takes time, said Jeffrey Card, the Army Community Service Relocation Readiness Program manager, in an e-mail interview.
According to statistics from the 2010 Newcomer’s Employment Orientation Guide, there are about 1,000 jobs supporting a community of more than 6,000 people.
Those numbers include 416 Department of the Army civilians " appropriated fund, 101 Department of the Army civilian non-appropriated funds, 110 AAFES, 108 Department of Defense Dependents Schools, 53 Defense Commissary Agency, and about 193 contract positions.
The 2010 statistics should be taken with a grain of salt, Card said. Basically, there are about 1,000 jobs on the installation with about half for U.S. citizens and the other for local nationals.
“What’s important is not the total number of jobs, but the turnover rate and the number of people competing for the vacancies,” he said. “The total number of jobs will probably shrink going forward but so will the number of people applying. The turnover rate is fairly consistent when balanced against the number of new job seekers coming into the community.”
Given that, Card said, the unemployment rate is roughly about equal to the U.S. national rate, which is between 9-10 percent.
“So the job search here isn’t any harder here than it is anywhere (on the average), and the upside is that there is effectively no household unemployment (i.e. every family here has at least one full-time wage earner),” he said.
The downside, he acknowledged, is that the work is skewed toward what this community needs including such things as administration, child care, retail and recreation, as opposed to what people prefer to do.
In typical military fashion, there are many acronyms that are flung around when talking about jobs: GS, AF, NAF, LN and the list goes on.
The term GS, or general schedule, just refers to a pay scale, which the government has many, Card said. Since GS is the most widely used many people just use the term ‘GS’ to refer to any federal job.
The term Local National, or LN, specifically refers to the employment status for non-U.S. citizens under the Status of Forces Agreement, or SOFA. This is the agreement that allows the U.S. to operate installations on German soil and agrees to respect German labor laws when hiring non-U.S. citizens.
AF, or appropriated funds, and NAF, or nonappropriated funds, just refers to the funding source for the position, Card said. AF positions are funded by dollars appropriated for the Army by Congress; NAF positions are theoretically funded by cash the business collects from the public in return for its services.
“So a job with the golf course should be a NAF because it will be paid for by the money the golf course charges its customers; a job with Directorate of Logistics is an AF position because the government foots the bill for the employees’ salaries,” Card said.
Knowing the difference between these types of jobs is important, Card said, because each has slightly different business rules and a unique business process.
“Both types of job are advertised on the website USAjobs http://www.usajobs.opm.gov/, however each vacancy announcement has specific instructions on how to apply for the position,” Card said.
The majority of employment on the installation constitutes AF jobs (including LNs), he said.
“Employees in these positions represent a very stable workforce so the turnover rate is fairly low,” Card said.
NAF and Department of Defense Dependents Schools are the next biggest source of jobs on Warner Barracks. NAF turnover is pretty high, he said while the schools have a cyclical turnover and have mainly entry-level and substitute teacher positions available. About 20-25 percent of positions are for various businesses, franchises and contractors operating on the installation and include the banks, mini-mall business operators and the various companies that do such things as secure the gates, turn wrenches in the motor pools and provide janitorial services, Card said.
“The most stable such employment is for Community Bank and Service Credit Union, and some of the more stable contractors include the colleges and Pond Security,” he said.
Closing the Deal
The average job search takes 16 weeks, which means 50 percent of the people looking for work are employed in less than 16 weeks and 50% take longer, Card said.
“Which group you fall into depends on how aggressive you are,” Card said. “The passive person is one who gives limited time to their job search, applies infrequently and restricts their job options to a narrow selection of job titles, pay range or geographical area. It will take a long time to find these people work.”
On the other hand, the aggressive person will devote a lot of time to job research, he said. They will check every job source at least twice a week and apply frequently.
In addition, they will open their search to jobs on other posts including Schweinfurt and will consider taking a job that doesn’t pay quite what they are used to.
“Trading up is a perfectly good employment strategy for this community; taking a less than ideal job now can facilitate the move into a more suitable position later,” Card said. “This strategy opens a lot of developmental opportunities as well as the chance to promote from within the organization.”
In other words, broaden your horizon and think outside of the box, said Spencer Blackshear, ACS supply technician and employment readiness assistance representative. A good way to do this, he said, is to volunteer.
“By volunteering in a field you are interested in you are learning about what the job actually entails,” Blackshear said. “You are also broadening your horizon.”
In addition, by volunteering you will gain experience and get to know the supervisors, he said.
“When the time comes to apply for a job, you are already a familiar face to the hiring agents,” Backshear said. “You will have a foot in the door instead of walking into a closed door.”
While some may balk at not getting paid as a volunteer, Blackshear asserted otherwise.
“You might not be getting paid, but in the end you will,” he said. “Experience is a valuable commodity.”
Finally, Card said, the aggressive person gets help. They talk to the subject matter experts at the CPACs and take ACS employment classes.
Blackshear sends out a job vacancies list every Wednesday. In addition, he offers resume help.
“I don’t write your resume but I will guide you into the right system,” he said. “I will show you the direction but you have to walk through it yourself.”
For more information about employment issues, contact CPAC at 0951-300-1630 or Army Community Service at 0951-300-7777.