6/25/2011 - NEW YORK (AFNS) -- As the nation works to overcome its May-reported 9.1 percent unemployment rate, efforts are underway to assist U.S. military veterans and their spouses in their search for jobs in the civilian sector.
One such veteran is Jason Browder. The former Air Force senior airman, who served four years as an active-duty engineering assistant, has been in the job market for four months and has found job hunting more challenging than he anticipated. However, he discovered he isn't alone in his quest for employment, and was in good company at the Hiring Our Heroes job fair and Veterans On Wall Street Conference June 23 in New York City.In March, when veteran unemployment numbers were higher than the national average, U.S. Chamber of Commerce officials launched the year-long, nationwide Hiring Our Heroes campaign in partnership with the Department of Labor's Veterans Employment and Training Service, said Army Maj. Joseph Mullins, DOL VETS military fellow. The program supports Labor Secretary Hilda Solis' "Good Jobs for Everyone," by providing veterans and transitioning service members with the resources and services necessary to succeed in the civilian workforce. The initiative is supported by the White House "Joining Forces" campaign, in which hiring fairs were referenced as one of the many ways that Americans can give back to veterans and their families.
"The Chamber and DOL VETS are working together to co-host 100 hiring fairs in communities across the country to connect veteran talent with the private sector's demand for high-skilled workers," the major said. "We are focused on better coordinating public and private sector efforts to help veterans find meaningful employment in the communities they are returning to every day."
The New York City fair, which featured more than 100 employers and on-site application reviews, is the tenth such event to take place. It is also one of 80 events currently scheduled or in coordination to take place in every state and Puerto Rico, with a goal of producing 100 fairs through March 2012. A map highlighting the locations of upcoming Hiring Our Heroes events is available at http://www.uschamber.com/veterans/events.
Planners are coordinating with existing state and local hiring fairs to maximize efforts, Major Mullins said. They also are coordinating with Guard and Reserve units returning from deployments to support those servicemembers and their families.
Veterans and their spouses should visit hiring fairs properly dressed, with copies of their resumes and prepared to give short interviews. An important feature of the events is that they have a variety of agencies offering local job opportunities for veterans of various experience and education levels, said Kevin Schmiegel, U.S. Chamber of Commerce vice president.
Chicago was the site of the first Hiring Our Heroes fair, with nearly 200 of the 1,200 veterans garnering jobs from the 100 employers on site.
In conjunction with the New York City Hiring Our Heroes event was the Veterans On Wall Street conference. It took place nearby throughout the day and about 1,000 participants registered for it. The interactive event was provided by a consortium of five major banks: Bank of America, Citibank, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs. It featured a variety of communications workshops for veterans and potential employers.
"It's been amazing to see five competitors all come together to work toward a common goal, said Jamie Peace, Deutsche Bank VOWS project officer and a Marine Corps veteran. "The veteran's networks at these banks have transcended the institutions. We all make the time to help other vets get jobs, whether its jobs on one of the Wall Street firms or by partnering with a job fair to help vets get jobs with one of those agencies. It's even reached the point to where if Deutsche Bank says it can't hire an applicant, they'll say, 'let us put you in touch with Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse or Citibank to see if they have a spot for you.'"
Mr. Peace credits his current corporate job position to his professional network of friends and he suggests veterans tap into a network of people, like those who attend the hiring fairs and conferences, people who are willing to help each other find jobs. Networking may not seem easy at first. It requires patience, making the most of opportunities when they arise, and asking people for referrals, but is worth the effort, he said.
Mr. Peace also encourages veterans to consider accepting internships that may become an opportunity for a fulfilling full-time position as his has.
In addition to the hiring fairs and VOWS conferences, DOL VETS officials with the assistance of those from a number of transition assistance professional organizations such as Harvard Business School Office of Career Services, are redesigning the Defense Department transition assistance program to take advantage of modern technology commonly used in today's job market.
"We have to acknowledge and thank those who started TAP 19 years ago, and we need to update and modernize it," said Army veteran Ray Jefferson, DOL VETS assistant secretary.
The goal is to have the new TAP fully ready for veterans to use by mid-November, Mr. Jefferson said. The program will assess participants to provide customized training based on needs and job search readiness. Veterans then move on to learn self marketing skills through observation, interaction, and online interactive training. After 60 days following TAP completion, veterans receive customized individual coaching. The program concludes with a performance metrics assessment to ensure it continues to stay on target in meeting transition assistance needs.
Transitioning into the civilian world during a time of record unemployment may bear many challenges for retiring and separating service members, but there is a network of people and agencies available looking forward to Hiring Our Heroes.