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Intel 'Eliminati' group to hold job fair next week

Former employees at state's largest employer wades through layoff fallout.

HILLSBORO TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - Intel let go of hundreds of employees at its Hillsboro and Aloha campuses over the past two years. A group of former employees is organizing a job fair next week to help laid off employees get back to work.They call themselves the “Eliminati.”

For two years, a group of more than 300 former Intel employees has been meeting off and on across the Portland area, offering support and job training to one another after the state’s largest employer announced major layoffs in 2015.

Next week, they’re taking that a step further, co-hosting a job fair in Beaverton aimed at getting their members off unemployment and back to work.

Prior to April, Intel employed nearly 19,500 people at its five Washington County campuses. This spring, the company announced it would be cutting 12,000 jobs worldwide as it transitions from a PC company to other high-growth areas. The company hopes to power autonomous cars, as well as the Cloud and billions of smart, connected computing devices, called the “Internet of Things.”

Intel laid off 784 people in Oregon and offered buyouts and early-retirement packages to others. In total, Intel plans to eliminate 2,400 positions at its Oregon facilities by 2017.

The most recent round of layoffs came a year after the microchip giant laid off 1,100 employees nationwide.

Check it out

A job fair organized by former Intel employees is set for 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 24, at Portland Community College's Willow Creek Center.

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A handful of former employees began meeting infrequently at local coffee shops and bars in 2015 to commiserate and share job hunting tips. That group’s ranks slowly grew by word of mouth, and eventually found a name: “The Intel Eliminati.”

“Talking about it helps,” said Richard Vireday, a senior software engineer who was let go in April after 31 years with Intel. “They can say, ‘This is what happened to me,’ and because we are somebody who has been in Intel, we can relate.

“Unless you’re in that environment you don’t really have a clue. They can relate and understand exactly what you’re going through.”

On Wednesday, Aug. 24, more than 200 people are expected to attend a high-tech job fair at Portland Communty College’s Willow Creek Center, 241 S.W. Edgeway Drive in Beaverton.

More than 25 employers, including Laika animation studio, Cascade Microtech, Jaguar Land Rover, SolarWorld and Washington County will be on hand to talk with high tech workers.

“We want to give people hope that there is a life after Intel,” said Nathan Brown, who worked at Intel for 19 years as engineer and project manager before he was laid off in April. “There are opportunities out there — opportunities that might even be better than what they had before.”

Lending a hand

Like all laid-off Intel employees, Vireday was handed a large packet of information and was escorted from the building the day he left. But he said he struggled to make sense of what was happening to him.

“There is so much to do,” he said.

The Eliminati’s website — Pdx-tie.org — offers first-step advice for former employees, helping people read and make sense of their termination packets and walking them through the COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) insurance setup.

“We’re a little like Alcoholics Anonymous,” Vireday said, laughing. “We’ve got the 12-step program to get you going.”

For now, Vireday has been doing some pro bono work and is waiting to hear back from a company about a temporary position.

“Engineers, marketers, people that worked in sales. There [are] a lot of diverse skills coming out right now,” Vireday said. “People still need to talk to people and keep themselves motivated. You can come for an hour or two and sit and chat. That’s really important.”

Major layoffs are not a new phenomenon to Intel. Worldwide, the company cut 3,000 employees in 1998 after a slowdown in sales. In 2006-07, Intel let go of 10,500 employees, or about 10 percent of its workforce.

“After seeing of six or seven rounds of layoffs over the years, it finally caught up with me,” Vireday said.

Losing a job is hard, Vireday said, especially one that you’ve had for a long time. Most people needed to go through a period of mourning, he said.

“It shows that you’re not in it alone,” Brown said. “There are people willing to help you out.”

When Brown was laid off, his wife was undergoing treatment for melanoma.

Losing a job at that time could have been devastating, but Brown said the Eliminati group helped him realize he was ready for a career change.

“Getting laid off was a good thing,” he said. “It was a kick in the pants. I had to ask myself, “What am I going to do? Do I do the same thing that I’ve been doing for a long time, or take a long look at myself and ask what my dreams are?

“What did I really want to do? This was a chance to start over.”

Intel officials declined to comment to The Tribune on the Eliminati group or the upcoming job fair, but Vireday said there are no hard feelings between the group’s members and their former employer.

“I wouldn’t be averse to Intel showing up (at the job fair),” Vireday said. “The people I worked with there were great over the years. I’ve made professional acquaintances and personal friends. By and large Intel has been a pretty good company to work for, at least for me.”

Reporter Travis Loose contributed to this story.

By Geoff Pursinger
Associate Editor, Hillsboro Tribune
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