The work is not glamorous. It is repetitive, sometimes monotonous, smelly and hot. You are working for hours on end processing fish on what in the fishing industry is known graphically – but correctly - as the “slime line.” Things don’t get much any more exciting during your off duty hours either. Cell phone reception is basically nil and what down time you have, you will likely spend eating or sleeping.
In their effort to recruit more than 700 summer workers for fish-processing jobs in Alaska, HR staff from Icicle Seafoods want there to be no misconception about how these months will unfold.
“You don’t want to go up there with any preconceived notions that things are going to be better than they are, or that it’s an adventure,” said Annmarie Todd, Icicle Seafoods Director of Recruitment. “It’s just a job.”
But it’s a job that pays $8.75 per hour and $13.13 for overtime with meals, room and board provided. It’s a job that lots of people want, particularly those facing long term unemployment and harsh economic conditions in the Antelope Valley.
People like James, a client of JVS’ General Relief Opportunities of Work (GROW) program. James has worked a number of security jobs around the Southern California and Las Vegas areas. He has worked in shoe stores, hospitals and for Metrolink. Now he needs a more stable living situation, a better car and the ability to provide for his 6 year old son.
“I need the money, but I also just need something different to experience, something new,” said James following his interview during an Icicle job fair at Antelope Valley College. “The interview went well, and I know they’re going to call me. I’m ready to get my plane ticket and leave right now.”
“I definitely think there are some challenges, but I’m willing to overcome those challenges and try something new,” agreed Elesse, another GROW client who has had difficulty finding work as a certified medical assistant. “It will be good to get out of the area. I don’t have anything lined up for this summer, so why not.”
In the summer of 2014, JVS Lancaster GROW program sent more than 50 workers to Icicle's facilities in Larsen Bay. The company was so impressed with their new workers that they have partnered again with JVS GROW, along with Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE), America’s Job Center of California, and L.A. County Department of Public and Social Services on recruiting events to be held throughout Los Angeles and the San Fernando and Antelope Valleys in April and May.
The fish processing positions both on boats and in land plants are entry level. Workers who return for multiple seasons and successfully complete their contracts can expect to get perks like better shifts and higher positions within what Todd calls the “slime line hierarchy.”
“When there’s no fish available, people will be called up and they’ll say, ‘Hey, do you want to clean the underside of this thing?” or “Do you want to go down to the engine room and count rags,’” says Todd. “ We want to keep our returning people and attract as many quality workers as we can. We are kind of an entry level company, and if people can complete a contract or two with us, we help them get jobs in the Bering Sea.”
Todd and Tammy French, Executive Vice President Human Resources/Organization Development for Icicle Seafoods, both raved about the workers who came out of the Antelope Valley. They were especially impressed by the work of the GROW team’s pre-screening and preparing of candidates. They expect to return to the Antelope Valley on a regular basis to recruit for summer and winter fishing and crab season.
“What's great about our partnership with JVS GROW is that your agency's mission and your values are all about helping people with their lives by getting meaningful work," added fellow Icicle Seafoods Recruiter Tammy French. "We are just excited to be the extension of that."