Inside Seven
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(far right) Lisa Peng, District 7 recruitment and student assistant program coordinator, talks to interested job seekers at a Los Angeles job fair on positions the District is seeking to fill.

District 7 Career Recruitment Program Attracts Top Talent
by  Maria Raptis
Issue Date: 04/2009

In a time of high unemployment rates, Job Fairs may be the Fast Track to the Employment Office

It’s been said that Caltrans District 7’s greatest resource is its people. The responsibility for recruiting the remarkably talented individuals who serve District 7 falls to the Administration Division and the Office of Budgets, led by its manager, Susan Harris.

One of the most effective methods that Harris and her team use to attract top talent is recruitment fairs and networking events held at local colleges and universities. District 7 representatives attend three or four of these events each month.

On April 1, District 7 participated with 100 other businesses in one of the largest career expos of the year, “Latinos for Hire,” at the Los Angeles Convention Center with an emphasis on bilingual recruits. On April 18, Caltrans will be represented at the Loyola Marymount University Networking Fair, and again on April 21 at the “Job Seek and Find” in the City of Industry and May 28 at the “Youth Opportunities Fair” in Long Beach.

“Career recruitment is one of the most fun, creative and public functions that the Office of Budgets is involved in,” says Harris.

Caltrans District 7 lead recruiter, Lisa Peng, Recruitment and Student Assistant Program Coordinator, will have information regarding job descriptions and salary ranges to attract transportation engineers, environmental planners, transportation planners, right of way agents and maintenance workers.

Career fairs are selected based on the majors that are offered by the host school. In addition to urban studies and transportation planning, the District also targets schools that offer majors in public administration and policy, geography, civil engineering and environmental studies.

Recruiting events provide students with a low-pressure opportunity to talk with Caltrans staff about positions in administration, engineering, information technology, landscape architecture, planning and surveying. They can also learn more about District 7, how to apply for a state job, and the benefits of working for Caltrans.

“Our role is to help make the public aware of job opportunities in Caltrans District 7 and help those who are interested through the hiring process,” says Harris. “Starting out as a student assistant can easily lead to part-time and full-time employment and even a life-long career assignment.”

A part of the Administration Division, the Office of Budgets administers the district’s career recruitment efforts because it is responsible for resource management and position control. Budgets keeps the list of all classifications and all vacancies in the district, so they know which classifications need filling.

According to Harris, “In the 2007/08 fiscal year, District 7 hired 32 student assistants, the majority of them recruited through career and university fairs. Unfortunately by the end of July last year, all student assistants were laid off given the lack of a budget, but we’ve been able to hire some back.”

One of the keys to attracting top talent is building relationships with students early, preferably when they are in their college freshman or sophomore year. That way, career recruiters can provide guidance on required coursework and job-related experience that will help them meet the exam eligibility requirements upon graduation.