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Vets Seek Job Opportunities at GE-sponsored Fair

General Electric Co., has committed to hiring 5,000 military veterans in the next five years, and it reinforced its commitment Thursday when it co-sponsored an employment and business expo for veterans at the Stamford branch of the University of Connecticut.

More than 70 businesses and government agencies manned booths at the Operation Home2Work event, which was also sponsored by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Small Business Administration and Department of Labor.

Many military veterans are in real need of assistance in their search for employment, said Michael Tresca, manager, human resources recruiting communications at Fairfield-based GE.

"GE and the GE Vets Network are going around the country to more than 400 U.S. Chamber of Commerce career fair events, offering skills training," he said, adding many veterans aren't equipped with a resume. GE staffers also attend many of these events, seeking to fill jobs and offering veterans the opportunity to join 10,000 other veterans at GE facilities.

Among the jobseekers was New Haven resident Jaime Tetrault, an Air Force veteran who visited many of the booths.

"Prudential looks promising," he said. "It's a basic sales rep, which is my background. I got here at 9 o'clock. You've got to take advantage of what's here. It's definitely a foot in the door."

Norwalk residents Steve Butler and Brian Lindquist, who both served in Afghanistan, also distributed their resumes.

"I'm trying to jump-start a career. I'm looking for entry level in marketing," said Lindquist, a student at Norwalk Community College and a National Guard member.

Butler, a full-time student majoring in history at the University of Connecticut Stamford, is an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan and is president of the school's 30-member Veterans Association.

"I want to teach in high school. I'm a drill sergeant in the reserves," he said, adding that he was hoping to land a part-time job.

Stephanie Hodge, regional recruiter for Greenwich-based United Rentals, said many military veterans have skills she is seeking.

"We're looking for people to fix or sell our equipment. We have 250 positions across the nation," she said. "The candidates I've talked with are good candidates."

On the other side of the first-floor concourse, Alba DiPreta, human resources generalist at Milford-based Eastern Bag & Paper Group, manned a table and said the company would like to hire qualified veterans.

"We're here to hire vets. We're looking for good people," she said. "We're definitely in need of sales reps, and we're always in need of drivers."

The Department of Defense started the Hero 2 Hired program in December, said Shelton resident Wayne Travers Jr., chairman of the Connecticut unit of the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, which supports Hero 2 Hired, www.h2h.jobs, a resource for National Guard and Reserve personnel and employers.

"Our main mission is to gain and maintain employer support of National Guard and Reserve personnel. The Reserves make up about half of our total military force," he said, and employers can access www.h2h.jobs to review jobseekers.

Federal legislation, the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, is designed to protect the jobs of National Guard and Reserve personnel, Travers said. "There are occasional issues. We have a mediation program. The biggest issue is a rotation schedule. The DOD has been working on it for years."

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