The federal government plans to hire dozens of security screeners at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, one of only a few airports adding full-time positions after Congress ordered work force reductions last year.
The Transportation Security Administration is authorized to hire as many as 1,038 full-time screeners at Sky Harbor, but the number of current employees is less than 900, said Michael Fierberg, a Denver-based spokesman for the agency.
"They’re real short of people down there," he said. "I don’t have exact numbers, but I would say the number of folks we’re looking for, at least to apply, will be in the hundreds. We won’t hire hundreds of people because we know from past experience there’s a certain percentage that just don’t make it through the whole process for one reason or another."
Sky Harbor is one of five airports being permitted to hire full-time people because the Transportation Security Administration determined that doing so is the most efficient way to backfill the shortage caused by attrition.
"In any organization where you have over 1,000 employees, you’re going to have natural attrition every week . . . and that’s essentially what has happened," Fierberg said. "It’s just that we’re a little bit behind the curb in hiring folks to replace the attrition."
The other airports that will add full-time staff are Boston Logan International Airport; Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Memorial airports, also in Massachusetts; Amarillo (Texas) International Airport; and Washington-Dulles International Airport.
"Most large airports are only hiring part-time security workers, but Sky Harbor’s traffic flow is constant," Fierberg said.
"The pattern of people who go through per hour seems to change less at Sky Harbor than most other places, meaning that there are planes that are coming and going all the time rather than just at 8 o’clock and 11 o’clock and 4 in the afternoon, 7 at night. It’s a more even flow. Where we have peaks and valleys at many airports, it makes much more sense to have part-timers."
Full-time security salaries can range from $23,600 to $35,400 depending upon experience, plus locality pay. Federal security screeners also receive federal benefits, including health insurance, life insurance, retirement, paid vacation and sick leave.
Security screener duties include providing frontline security and protection of travelers, airports and airplanes by identifying dangerous objects in baggage and on passengers.
In November, the Transportation Security Administration announced it was looking for part-time security screeners in more than 98 airports across the United States, but Sky Harbor was not on the list.
Congress ordered the agency to cut 6,000 screeners, or about 11 percent of all such positions, by October because it felt the agency had overhired. The government plans to have 48,000 screeners with reductions through attrition and other steps.
Candidates must meet the minimum requirements under the law, are then assessed, and, if hired, are required to successfully complete 40 hours of classroom instruction and 60 hours of on-the-job training. The entire process takes several weeks.
Those interested can apply either online at www.tsa.gov, or by calling (800) 887-1895.