TSA plans for hiring blitz this weekend in the midst of turnover problems

VIDEO: TSA to hold recruitment event

Larissa Dragu is a lead officer for the Transportation Security Administration who loves “being surrounded by people. It gives me energy.”

After graduating from the University of Indiana with a criminal justice degree, Dragu was hired to work for the TSA at Sea-Tac Airport three years ago. For her, dealing with thousands of passengers every day is part of the difficult job she loves. “I’m able to use my second and third languages to communicate with people and be that bridge to gap barriers,” the Romanian-born U.S. citizen told KIRO 7 on Wednesday.

Dragu plans to work for the TSA for the long haul.

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So does U.S. Marine veteran Jerico Gallana. “I want to do it as a career,” Gallana said. “Become a supervisor and then move up from there.”

However, retention rates for TSA officers at Sea-Tac Airport are among some of the lowest in the country.

According to Bloomberg, 90% of all officers hired between 2012 and 2016 left their TSA jobs at Sea-Tac.

To increase the ranks, the TSA held several hiring events this past March to boost employment numbers by 200.

At the time, TSA spokesperson Lorie Dankers told KIRO 7 that in the summer months, Sea-Tac Airport “had double digit growth over the past four years and as a result, we’ve needed more employees to screen the passengers.”

Now, just eight months later, the TSA is again hoping to hire more officers.

On Saturday, the agency will hold a one-day recruitment effort to select 175 people to fill not only positions at Sea-Tac but also at Paine Field in Everett, which will open to commercial traffic in early 2019.

“We do have some turnover of officers,” Dankers admitted, but she said a big reason for that turnover is because trained TSA officers easily move on to other careers. “They’re able to have mobility within the system and there are many opportunities in the federal government in the Seattle area.”

According to Dankers, TSA officers who leave most often take jobs for equal or better pay in the private sector but many others take positions with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, ICE and other federal agencies; also local law enforcement.

The TSA “is not for everybody and we admit that,” Dankers said. “You start early in the morning and you’re busy non-stop until noon, on your feet. It’s not a job for everybody, but for those who like that type of work, here it is.”

Passengers can also be stressed-out, especially during busy holiday travel times. The responsibility of the flying public's safety rests on the shoulders of TSA officers as the first line of defense.

“We want to make sure that everybody flies safe,” Gallana said. “If you’re a person who likes to interact with others, this is a fit for you.”

The 175 jobs the TSA is looking to fill are both full and part time, include benefits, paid leave, 401k coverage and a starting pay of $18.64 per hour.

Applicants must have a GED or high school diploma, a full medical exam, and pass a federal drug test -- which means, no recent marijuana use. “We need to follow all those rules because these individuals that we hire will be federal employees,” Dankers said.

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