Engineering a career: Important for Tinker to attract, retain engineers

  • Published
  • By Mike W. Ray
  • Tinker Public Affairs
Engineers are critical to various operations at Tinker AFB. Consequently, as the U.S. Air Force downsizes to accommodate leaner budgets, recruiting and retaining engineers has become challenging but vital to Tinker as it competes with the private sector for that talent pool.

Private industry can and does offer higher salaries to engineers than the Department of Defense does, acknowledged Shannon Custard, Chief of the Workforce Development Branch in the Engineering and Technical Management Directorate of the Air Force Sustainment Center.

Nevertheless, she said, AFSC/EN offers several perquisites that it uses to attract engineers to the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex. These include:

· Job stability. "Yes, it certainly was a little difficult during the furlough period earlier this year," Ms. Custard said. "But I told our job candidates that I had worked for the government for more than 28 years and this was the first time anything like that had happened."

· A set work week. Unlike private industry, "The government expects you to work only 40 hours a week," Ms. Custard said. "If more is required, you are compensated with overtime pay or comp time off."

· Leave-time accrual. "You start accruing vacation and sick leave immediately, and annual leave increases in tandem with time in service," she related. "Also, if allowed, you can earn up to 20 hours per week in credit time and Fit-4-Life," a program by which civilians can use up to three hours per week of their work schedule to devote to a personal fitness program.

· Immediate 'hands-on' experience. Most of the places where engineers work at Tinker "allow immediate hands-on experience with the product or system they manage," Ms. Custard said. "There is no 'training period,' per se. Everything they do has a direct and immediate effect on the mission and the warfighter."

· Salary. Typically the salary for new engineers in the Air Force "starts out small compared to others, but increases quickly because of the accelerated promotion rate for engineers," Ms. Custard said.

· Educational benefits. Tinker offers a variety of programs that help pay for a candidate's higher education.

· Job variety. Tinker has myriad places and types of work performed by engineers: in aircraft and jet engine maintenance, in the manufacture of parts and tools, in the maintenance of unmanned aerial vehicles, etc. The base employs engineers in the OC-ALC, the supply chain, the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center/Missile Sustainment Division, and the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center's Aircraft and Propulsion system program offices.

"We are constantly campaigning to recruit and retain engineers," said Angie Tymofichuk, Director of the AFSC's Engineering and Technical Management Directorate.
In fact, she said, an incentive program geared toward retention is under development, and an incentive program that enables Tinker to offer up to a 25 percent recruitment bonus for incoming electrical engineers and computer scientists was approved Wednesday.