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Job fair is key part of Panasonic hiring effort for RiverBend factory

Panasonic's push to hire the first of what are expected to be as many as 300 workers by the end of the year for its facilities within the Tesla solar panel factory will speed up on Tuesday, when the consumer products giant hosts a job fair in Buffalo.

Panasonic, which will make the solar cells and modules that will go into the solar panels and the solar roofing shingles produced by Tesla in Buffalo, will hold a hiring event on July 26 from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Buffalo Education and Training Center, 77 Goodell St.

While Panasonic has hosted a pair of information sessions about its hiring plans in Buffalo over the past eight days, the job fair next week will be the first where company representatives will meet briefly with job applicants as the first step in the hiring process.

About 150 people already have registered for the job fair; Panasonic representatives said they expect between 400 and 500 people to attend next week's event.

"Our goal here is to get as many people into our talent pipeline as possible," said Terry VanEpps, a Panasonic USA talent acquisition manager. "We just want the right people."

Panasonic expects to start producing solar modules in Buffalo within the next two months, VanEpps said during an information session in Amherst on Tuesday. To do that, the company plans to hire 40 production workers by the end of August, in addition to other employees who will do different types of work at the South Park Avenue factory.

Entry-level production workers are expected to earn starting wages of $14 an hour, he said. Machine operators will start at $18 an hour. The company also is seeking team leaders who will oversee groups of 10 to 15 production workers.

The company also is recruiting for a wide range of other jobs, including supply chain employees, such as buyers and stock room workers, as well as a variety of engineers. Panasonic, which is expected to make an announcement about the job fair with Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown on Wednesday, currently has listings for 26 different types of positions in Buffalo on its website.

Panasonic, which has been building its engineering and administrative staff in Buffalo, has said it hopes to have about 120 workers in place by the end of August.

VanEpps said next week's hiring event will be an important part of Panasonic's hiring efforts. Job candidates are asked to register in advance on Panasonic's website or by sending an email to BuffaloRecruiting@us.panasonic.com with Buffalo Hiring Event in the subject line. Applicants are asked to include a short summary of their interest and background.

At the hiring event, a team of about 10 Panasonic representatives plan to meet briefly with each candidate as the first step in the screening process. The company hopes to do follow-up interviews within the following two-and-a-half weeks and make job offers "quickly" after that so its initial production workers may be in place by the end of August, VanEpps said.

The Panasonic portion of the plant is expected to operate on 12-hour shifts, with production employees working three days one week and four days the next, alternating day and night shifts by the week.

The Panasonic jobs are part of Tesla's overall pledge to either create or help bring 2,900 jobs to the Buffalo Niagara region in exchange for $750 million in state subsidies through the Buffalo Billion.

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