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Specialized Job Fairs Help Veterans Find Work After Their Service

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Bud Gillett
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IRVING (CBSDFW.COM) –  Returning to civilian life is tough enough for veterans. Finding a job can be even a bigger challenge.

That’s why Thursday the U.S. Chamber of Commerce joined with a group called Recruit Military to hold a “Hiring our Heroes” job fair at the Irving Convention Center. Nearly 1200 veterans and spouses signed up to meet & greet with recruiters from 70 veteran-friendly companies. “We’re looking for warehouse, anything with warehouse,” a recruiter from Coca-Cola regularly told hopefuls.

There were giant firms like Coke and General Electric to smaller companies or colleges and trade schools. Army veteran Henry Jemison was ready. “I’m through serving my country and now I’m trying to get back into civilian life,” he told CBS 11 News. Jemison says it’s a challenge when many companies are downsizing. “I’m trying to look for something in the analyst realm or HR, and basically they don’t have any, they mostly have infrastructure (construction) work.”

While standing in line for an interview, Army Reservist and single mom Tammy Martinez said it’s great to be in a place where veterans are welcome. Corporate recruiting office doors are not always open, she says. “There are people out there that are not veteran-friendly and are not soldier-friendly, and I’ve been told before don’t use ‘Reservist,’ don’t put it on your resume’ because companies don’t want to see it,” she said, adding, “And I just think that’s wrong.”

She wants to put her logistics skills to work for a local warehouse and feels just getting out and about is helpful. “I’m not familiar with everything that’s going on in Fort Worth and they say networking is the best way to find a job.”

Gary White is on the other end; as a recruiter for Schwan’s, the home delivery food company, he’s looking for people who are self-starters. “We’re looking for route sales representatives which includes complete territory management on their part. It’s a high-touch environment, a lot of inter-personal skills. We’ve found that the skills championed in the military work very, very well getting a jump-start with our company.” He claims they are not just entry-level jobs. “Starting ranges from mid-20s to mid-30s as trainees, you can go quite higher, mid-50s to mid-60s depending on your competencies,” White claimed.

Not all of the people in attendance were veterans or recruiters; some were husbands and wives of veterans, with special needs in a new program announced today. The fair’s sponsors claim unemployment among military spouses is three times the national average.

David Lagassa, a Navy veteran and now a vice president for Capital One bank, when you add in the number of under-employed, the figure is closer to 50%. “We’re going to set up an e-mentoring program that’s going to help these spouses connect with people who are in these companies that value the military and enable them to get real-world advice,” he said, adding that down the road there are plans for twenty hiring fairs like the one in Irving, but only for military spouses.

As he left the convention center, Nakata Bonner of Arlington told CBS 11 New he thought the time was well-spent. “I think I made some good contacts and talked to some good people, so I’m optimistic about it,” he said. He also gave away all of the resumes he had—and more. “I had to go downstairs and print some more out, you know?”

The Irving event was the 99th hiring fair in the past year sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Recruit Military. The 100th is set for this weekend, and 300 more are set to be held in the coming months. The groups claim to have helped more than 8,000 veterans and spouses find employment. Veterans or others interested in hiring veterans can get more information on the Chamber’s website, uschamber.com/hiringourheroes.

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