Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Former Qimonda workers line up at VCU/VCATS job fair


Randall "Randy" Pak stood in a long line yesterday waiting for those precious moments when he could sell himself.

Out of work since February, Pak and more than 500 other former Qimonda employees gathered at a career fair at Virginia Commonwealth University yesterday to network and talk with prospective employers about their job offerings.

"I'm looking at all opportunities right now," said Pak, who moved here from Texas two years ago to work at the now-closed memory-chip plant in eastern Henrico County.

"I think the semiconductor industry in the U.S. is really dying," Pak said. "You go through a roller coaster ride emotionally, but you just have to be optimistic."

His goal: getting some face time with the Naval Surface Warfare Center, which recently has been hiring a number of former Qimonda employees.

The lines were long to speak with one of the 18 employers attending the fair. The lines to see representatives from the Naval Surface Warfare Center ran nearly out a door.

"It was very well-attended," said Nan Stewart, district manager for Virginia for the staffing firm Kelly Scientific Resources. "The caliber of candidate was very professional among all of the levels."

Seminars on a variety of subjects were offered, including on managing finances while in career transition, crafting a résumé and applying for federal jobs.

The five-hour fair, held at VCU's School of Business and School of Engineering, was open only to former Qimonda employees.

"What I'm really after is to find someone in the logistics industry who will sit down and talk to me," said Kristian Cauffman, an engineer with a degree in geology, as he sat in the school's atrium named after Qimonda.

"I want to get away from manufacturing," he said.

The event was sponsored by VCU, the Greater Richmond Partnership and the Virginia Council on Advanced Technology Skills.

The semiconductor company had a close relationship with VCU's engineering school. The company has an endowed chair and professorship there and had been the single largest employer of engineering school graduates.

Qimonda has "done a lot for VCU," said Mike Eisenman, director of the career center for the business and engineering schools. "It's done a lot for central Virginia. We thought it was the right thing to do."

In addition to the 18 employers, 10 others that work with entrepreneurs or offer educational training attended the fair.

"There's going to be a lot of competition," said Melba Rainey-Sayed, who left Qimonda in March after nine years there. "It's like 500 people for one job. A lot of us are thinking it's time to go back to school."

Qimonda idled its two production lines at its plant in eastern Henrico this year, putting about 2,500 people out of work. The company filed for bankruptcy in February.

"To see the birth of a company and then to see it go away . . . it was important to me to help put something together," said Don Owen, the former human resources director at the Sandston plant who helped organize the fair.

"We committed to the employees that we would do something for them, and this is kind of the fulfillment of that promise."

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