J.B. Hunt Transport Services, along with Grandslam Performance Associates and Global HR Partner Group, hosted a program for those displaced from technology jobs to bridge the gap between the job they had and the next one in their careers.
On Friday (Feb. 2), the business group hosted the J.B. Hunt Recruiting Fair and Career Transition Program for IT Professionals at Mermaids Seafood Restaurant in Fayetteville. Many attendees were recently laid off from positions at Walmart, and most were seeking new jobs.
Adam Arroyos, founder and CEO of Grandslam Performance Associates in Fayetteville, said 73 people signed up for the program. Arroyos and Javier Rincon, principal of Global HR Partner Group in Springdale, hosted the career transition program. The recruiting fair and job interviews will take place at the carrier’s corporate office in Lowell over the next two weeks.
Arroyos said he had planned to host the event at the Grandslam Performance Associates office, but the number of those who had registered led him to move the event to a larger venue. The program is a condensed version of GPA’s career coaching program as it’s usually between 30 and 40 hours, but J.B. Hunt needed the employees quickly. Some of the available positions included business and quality analysts, software and logistics engineers, tech support and data scientists.
Eric Airola, senior director of human resources for J.B. Hunt, spoke about the company’s $500 million investment in technology over five years and the company’s strategy shift in how it develops its technology. It used to let customers drive the technology it developed, but more than a year ago, the company decided that it would create technology that it thought customers would want.
“To do that, there’s a high demand for people who have great skills in software development, in leading projects, etc.,” Airola said.
The quick turnaround of the career transition program following the recent round of Wal-Mart layoffs wouldn’t have been possible without the partnerships established through the serve2perform Workforce Hub, which launched Oct. 1, and includes 19 area businesses and organizations, Arroyos said.
The program on Friday was the second Hub event, and GPA covered its cost for attendees, he said. Some aspects of the program include how to interview, calibrating skillsets and marketing new skills. The program is a community solution to help displaced workers and meet the needs of employers who need talent.
“What happens with displaced talent is a community issue,” Arroyos said.
Rincon explained how to prepare to land a job has changed in the past five years as a result of social media and technology. Now, something prospective employees must do that they didn’t have to do before is to sell themselves, he said.
Layoffs have become part of the new normal, Arroyos said, and it’s not as easy to find other higher paying jobs in Northwest Arkansas compared to larger metro areas.
“It’s harder here in Northwest Arkansas because there are only three big companies,” Rincon said.
For every $10,000 an employee earned at their previous job, it takes one month to find another job. However, other employers such area hospitals and startups offer high paying jobs, Arroyos said.
“I’ve been where you are,” he said. “There is hope. There is opportunity.” Arroyos, who was laid off from Wal-Mart in 2010, founded Grandslam Performance Associates in 2012.
Until last week, Adriane Eiroa worked as an analyst for Wal-Mart. Eiroa, who relocated here from Miami a year ago, said the program is helping her find her way back into the workforce. Michael Jones, who has a background in IT, has been hunting for a job for about a year after relocating here from Conway.
“I’m trying to find a more viable way to reintroduce myself to the job force.”
Levester Posey, an Indianapolis native, also has a technology background and formerly worked for AT&T. He has lived in the area for almost seven years and finding another position has been challenging. He said he expects to remain here at least until his daughter graduates from high school.
Janna Mai, a Fort Smith native, is a sophomore at the University of Arkansas and is studying computer engineering. She wanted to see what internship opportunities were available.
Judith Bruner was laid off from Wal-Mart in November and had worked for the company’s Information Systems Division for more than 18 years.
“I’ve been in IT for 35 years,” she said. “You name it. I’ve done it.” She’s looking for a new opportunity in IT. “I can’t go 10 months without a job.”