Transportation sets hiring standards for new security force

The Transportation Department on Wednesday unveiled a list of minimum qualifications applicants to become federal baggage screeners must have. The list of minimum requirements is required under the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, which became law in November. Baggage screeners must be U.S. citizens, possess a high school diploma or the equivalent, pass a criminal background check and be proficient in English. The department has created an aptitude test that will measure applicants' ability to speak English, perform screening duties, and deal with the public. Would-be screeners must pass the test, which will be ready by February. New federal security directors at each of the nation's 419 airports will play a role in screener recruitment, a senior Transportation Department official said Thursday after a news briefing at Transportation headquarters in Washington. Training for the new corps of federal baggage screeners will be conducted regionally and involve on-the-job screening work at airports around the country, the official said. Transportation is still fine-tuning the details of the compensation package they will offer new screeners, but another Transportation official said federal screeners would be better paid than their private-sector counterparts. "We will have federal employees on the job this spring in these positions…and it is my expectation that their wages will be higher than current employees," said the official. Under the law, Transportation must give hiring preference to veterans, and the department will also work to hire displaced aviation employees, the second official said. In mid-February, the new Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will assume control of contracts with private screening firms that currently handle screening chores at the nation's airports. The new standards will not apply to the current contract-screening workforce, but any new employees hired by contractors during this period must meet the criteria set out by the agency. "It means we can have some stability and [contract screeners] won't be fearing they won't have a job when the TSA takes over," said the second official. People who want to be considered for the screening jobs can register with the Transportation Department by e-mail or phone. The agency will send applications to all candidates when they are ready, which should be around the start of the new year. E-mail applicants should send their name and e-mail address to screener@ost.dot.gov. Phone applicants can call the agency at 202-366-9392 or 1-800-525-2878 and leave their name and mailing address.
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