Working on the Railroad

With its 60-year-olds retiring, imports of electronics and clothing strong, coal shipping in high demand, and lumber needed throughout the
Western U.S. for construction, Union Pacific is hiring aggressively.

Bill Behrendt, assistant vice president of human resources, tells me that the economy isn?t slowing down. ?From our perspective, it is booming. We have frankly, at times, more business than we can handle. We?ve always had growth in our organization, but it has never been to this degree.?

Union Pacific?s looking for people to operate trains, fix trains, and fix tracks, jobs that are particularly hard to fill in remote areas of the Western United States. It?s also looking for managers, marketers, auditors, and other employees. Because of a change in government rules, experienced railroad employees are sometimes retiring at age 60 now, causing the much-talked-about wave of baby-boomer retirements to hit this company before others.

Over the next decade, nearly 40 percent of its employees will reach retirement age, according to Barb Schaefer, senior vice president, human resources.

The company?s selling points include its growth opportunities, the chance to learn new technologies, and its role as part of the foundation of the American economy.

It heavily recruits military men and women. The company says they are particularly well-suited for jobs such as diesel locomotive mechanics, electricians, and railcar mechanics. They not only have the mechanical skills but also a lot of safety training. They also are used to working schedules similar to Union Pacific?s. Four of the railroad?s recruiters spend 50 percent of their time on military recruiting.

Union Pacific has a payroll of about $3.3 billion, about 48,300 employees, and about 7,531 locomotives. 

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