Bringing Engineers to Amarillo Calls for Creative Recruiting

Susan Hall

With the competition for engineering talent being what it is, companies are finding they not only have to bump up salaries, but also find other hooks for job candidates.


But what if you're a specialized industry in a remote, stark area? That was the situation for defense contractor B&W Pantex, with headquarters in the Texas Panhandle near Amarillo. The 3,300-employee company operates a nuclear weapons storage site for the U.S. Energy Department. The landscape is flat, dusty and has few trees-it's basically all sky out there. It's hard for the company to recruit engineers unless they're from the area. And once hired, it takes 18 to 24 months for workers to get the necessary security clearances. With an aging workforce, though, the company had to come up with a plan to hire younger workers, this Workforce Management article explains.


For starters, it recruited on college campuses with similar terrain-New Mexico State, West Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. And it recruits and hires students before they graduate to get that security clearance process in the works. It offers students up to $30,000 to pay for college. They must agree to work two months for every month of tuition received. If they leave the company early, they must repay the difference.


The article quotes Pantex engineering specialist Shane Rogers, saying:

We used to get maybe 10 or 15 candidates to review for each open position. Now we get more than 50.

On the site, Fistful of Talent Executive Editor Kris Dunn discusses how he would recruit for difficult locales, which he lists as Siberia, Antarctica or Amarillo. He suggests five:


  • Additional benefits that had value for the candidate, and payback agreements with the teeth of a Great White Shark. He would require workers to stay for three years and adds, "Hopefully you meet a local girl or guy during that time and start procreating like [former Denver Broncos running back] Travis Henry with a multi-year contract."
  • Targeting pros, possibly in their late 30s, who might be looking to raise a family away from the rat race of Dallas or Houston.
  • Ramping up military recruiting. Amarillo might look good after Afghanistan.
  • Focusing on pros in any area with similar terrain. With the drug wars spilling over the border, Amarillo also might look attractive next to El Paso.
  • Building a brand to make fun of Amarillo's remote location. He writes, "Whatever I can get that's funky, I need. Let's make fun of ourselves." To that end, might I suggest Cadillac Ranch, a roadside attraction of half-buried Cadillacs, and the 72-ounce steak challenge at the Big Texan Steak Ranch. (If you can eat all 4 1/2 pounds of meat and all the fixins in one hour, it's free.)


Yes, in recruiting, too, extreme challenges call for creative measures.

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