IBM Employees Hope To Find Match At Job Fair

Jul 15, 2013

IBM still has not disclosed the exact number of employees it has laid off from its Essex manufacturing plant.

The company told the workers a month ago that their jobs were being eliminated. And the state expected to know by now the exact number who were let go.

The lack of detailed information frustrates some of the former IBM workers who attended a job fair on Monday.

The job fair drew about 80 Vermont companies and several hundred job-seekers who were recently separated from IBM.

Mark Drapa has been a temp worker at IBM for about six years. Trained as a microprocessor engineer, he’s currently looking for work.

“Unfortunately that’s a fairly specific skill. If you’re willing to leave, then there are so many jobs available. But staying here, which is a high priority for myself, and many of those around me. It kind of puts you in a box,” he said.

Drapa said finding a match for his skills at the job fair would have been easier if IBM had disclosed exactly how many jobs, and what types of positions, were eliminated.

“A lot of the employers right now here I don’t think really understand the types of skills we’re coming with,” he said. “Many folks said manufacturing or maintenance roles are available and we’re talking about people here with masters, PhDs, who have been doing high-level design. And that mismatch has come just from the miscommunication or lack of communication about the type of people who have become available.”

Two of the biggest employers at the fair, Fletcher Allen and Dartmouth College, said they have jobs available that may be of interest to workers with IBM experience.

Dartmouth College recruiting consultant Lauri Sybel said those in the technology field may be surprised by the offerings at Dartmouth. She said Dartmouth currently has 137 staff jobs open, and over 200 temporary and contract jobs.

"Research, technology, medicine, teaching, information systems, human resources and a host of jobs that keep a research medical institution continuing to operate,” she said.

But another local company said it didn’t have many positions that fit with the laid-off IBM workforce. Michelle Noonan is manager of marketing services for North American Breweries, which makes Magic Hat beer.

“Most of the people who have stopped by today are looking more for project management, engineering types of position. That is not something that we have available in our South Burlington location,” she said.

Gov. Peter Shumlin and other state officials encouraged the former IBM employees to stay in Vermont.

And Mark Drapa, the microprocessor engineer, is hoping to do just that.

“Vermont fits. This is exactly where we want to stay,” he said. “And it’s becoming clear that you have to make your own way in order to preserve the longevity here. The concept of a 30-year employment is a foreign one (now). Truthfully I’m tired of switching jobs every three to five years, but I’ll do it to stay here.”

Meanwhile, state officials hope to get more detail, including a list of who was let go, from IBM later this week.