HAFB visits Comic Con to recruit for STEM workers

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Hill Air Force Base’s Forrest Brown and Alison Sturgeon watch as Douglas Kelly, 10, of West Point, spins a gyroscope with Charlie Vono at the base’s STEM booth at Comic Con at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017.

SALT LAKE CITY — This weekend, representatives from the state’s largest military installation are “boldly going” where few like them have gone before — to the center of the comic book and science fiction fantasy world in hopes of finding willing “recruits” for real jobs in the real world of science, technology, engineering and math.

Hill Air Force Base is searching for candidates to hire for hundreds of current and future civilian positions, explained Alison Sturgeon, civilian engineer and STEM outreach program manager at Hill. She said to fill all the positions that will be coming online over the next several years, the base will need to hire 200 to 300 people annually.

Statewide, there are about 7,000 open STEM jobs, she noted. With such a dearth of qualified people to fill scores of available high-tech positions, Sturgeon and a team of colleagues from Hill are targeting their efforts toward the Salt Lake Comic Con show at the Salt Palace Convention Center to find worthy candidates.

She noted that while the three-day event typically attracts thousands of sci-fi and comic geeks, they are hoping to find some STEM nerds as well. After reaching out to convention organizers, they were able to get their booth for free. Then it was up to the team to develop a plan to recruit.

For the Salt Lake Comic Con, the Hill crew received support from local aerospace and engineering groups. Sturgeon is hopeful the effort will provide exposure to a new audience.

“I have a philosophy that I will try most anything once,” Sturgeon said. “This was the perfect opportunity to see if this could be worth our time.”

She said the outreach program supports about 115 events annually throughout Utah in search of STEM-skilled workers.

“We’ll send people out to science fairs giving career presentations and have people who mentor…

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