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CAMT career fair creates job opportunities.

TWO WEEKS AFTER completing NAA Education Institute's (NAAEI) Certified Apartment Maintenance Technician (CAMT) curriculum--offered at Montgomery College's Rockville, Md., campus for the first time this fall--12 of the program's 16 students participated in an on-campus maintenance career fair.

Through an event developed by NAAEI and Montgomery College, graduates were given the opportunity to speak with recruiters from six multifamily housing companies: Berkshire Property Advisors, Kettler Management, Riverstone Residential, Equity Residential, Camden and Southern Management. Each company conducted interviews and invited several course graduates to schedule a second interview at their respective company offices.


For graduate Hiluf Mekonen, the November event was an opportunity to rebuild his career.

The Ethiopian refugee, a college-educated civil engineer with 20 years of experience in his home country, fled to the United States two years ago with his wife, hopeful he could make enough money to eventually bring his children over, too.


Mekonen works at a 7-Eleven convenience store and enrolled in the CAMT program to find a job more in line with his previous career. He was one of 12 students in the class who passed all four Chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) Certification exams, earning the prestigious Universal CFC Certification.

Tolosa Wkene was also grateful for the opportunity to speak with recruiters. Another refugee from Ethiopia, Wkene came to the United States in 2008 and works as a parking attendant. He found a description of the CAMT program in the local newspaper and knew an apartment maintenance career would mesh well with his past experience as a general technician.

"I worked at an airport in Ethiopia for 25 years doing everything from bathroom plumbing to working on pipelines and mechanics," he says. "Whenever anything failed, I immediately fixed it. It's similar to maintenance in the apartment industry."


Wkene could not afford the $975 tuition fee, and was eventually sponsored by Lutheran Social Services, a non-profit organization that helped several of the students pay for the CAMT courses.

A few students enrolled in the CAMT course because they were seeking a change of career. Henry Colon' worked as a project manager for the federal government for several years, overseeing maintenance contracts for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) housing. Colon' is familiar with routine and preventive residential maintenance and says he wanted a more hands-on career. He also was tired of the unpredictability of having to compete for a government contract every year. Interested in something more stable, Colon' read a description of the CAMT course and says it was exactly what he wanted. "I want to work my way up to a Regional Maintenance Supervisor at an apartment community," Colon' says. "The CAMT course gave me an overview of the tools I'll need on the job and it was helpful speaking to several recruiters."


Recruiters' Good Fortune

Equity Residential Recruiter Jamie Mercer manned a table at the career fair and says she was impressed with many of the CAMT program graduates. "Everyone seemed very engaged and excited, and that's what we're looking for--people with a good attitude and a basic aptitude," she says. "Filling maintenance positions is my biggest recruiting challenge due to long hours and certification requirements, and I definitely found some candidates here."

Property Manager Catherine Wyser-Pratte represented Riverstone Residential at the career fair and says she hopes to return for another event in the spring.

"We're always looking for maintenance technicians, and it's great to take some resumes back to the office," she says. "We placed a help wanted maintenance technician job posting on Craigslist recently and only got four hits, so well-attended events such as this are nice. A lot of these candidates are new to the area and the country and it's great for them to have the opportunity to get their foot in the door."

Montgomery College course instructor Paul Perez, who taught the CAMT classes at the Rockville campus, says the majority of his students came from other careers. Many have earned higher-education degrees abroad in countries such as Iraq, Venezuela and Ethiopia, but are starting their career development from the bottom in America. Perez is hopeful the "talented and driven group" will make it in the apartment industry. "I hope this fair has given them the opportunity to make some connections," says Perez, who is teaching the CAMT classes again in February and April.

Ed Roberts, Instructional Dean for Applied Technology and the Gudelsky Institute for Technical Education, was pleased with both the class and the career fair.

"Montgomery College is trying to do the best it can with job creation," says Roberts, who recommended the program to colleagues at Frederick Community College. "We had 16 unemployed people in the CAMT class and now most of those students are interviewing and will hopefully get jobs. It's the perfect outcome."

All students say the CAMT class was interesting and informative. "In Ethiopia, we don't use things such as drywall, and the nature of the construction materials, the culture and the climate are different," Mekonen says. "We also have lectures and reading there, and here we did hands-on practice." -NAA's Lauren Boston
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Title Annotation:Employment
Date:Dec 1, 2010
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