Job Fair Highlights Veterans’ Unique Skills, Commitment

By Donna Miles

American Forces Press Service

NEW YORK, Nov. 4, 2005 – Employers anxious to tap into the skills and discipline military service instills in its members converged with thousands of job-seeking veterans here at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center Nov. 3 during the first Salute Our Heroes Veterans Job Fair and Career Expo.

The fair brought together an estimated 7,000 veterans, many recently returned from duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, and 87 private-sector, government, and union employers hoping to entice current and former servicemembers into their workforces.

Guy “Doc” Holliday, vice president for advertising for the New York Times, which hosted the event, said many employers recognize their responsibility to help servicemembers transition to civilian careers after their military service. “It’s our obligation to ensure that when these soldiers return home they can make a livelihood,” he said.

Linda Angello, a commissioner for the New York State Department of Labor, echoed Holliday’s sentiments, reminding employers that troops who have put their lives on the line “need more than a pat on the back and a thank you” when they leave military service.

“They need assistance in finding employment as they begin their civilian lives,” she said.

Charles “Chick” Ciccolella, assistant secretary for the Department of Labor’s Veterans Employment of Training Services, emphasized the value veterans bring to the workforce.

Employers are increasingly recognizing that it’s good business to hire veterans, he said. “They’re skilled; they’re disciplined; they’re talented. They’re good leaders and great managers.

“They did their job, and now we’re doing ours,” Ciccolella said of employers helping veterans launch civilian careers. “There is nothing more important that we can do than help them find good jobs that lead to great careers.”

Joanne Fried, from U-Haul International Inc., said the job fair offered a unique opportunity for the company, founded by a World War II veteran, to seek out veterans for its workforce. “We realize that veterans have good commitment and that they’re dedicated, hardworking, and trustworthy people,” she said. “They’re exactly what we’re looking for.”

Tom Corliss, a recruiter for First Data, said veterans frequently bring strong computer skills to the workplace. But, he said, many also bring personal attributes that make them attractive job candidates: respect, the ability to follow orders from upper management and, when necessary, the ability to swallow their pride and do what needs to be done. “I’m impressed with these people,” Corliss said of the job seekers he met.

Bill Holfeld, who attended the fair representing New York’s Local 46, a union that represents metal lath and reinforcing ironworkers, called veterans “a natural fit” for his organization.”They’re more disciplined (than nonveterans),” Holfeld said. “They’re more willing to listen. They don’t think everything is coming to them. They do the work and don’t give you any guff.

“They’re reliable, responsible, on time, and sober,” he continued.

“It’s always a pleasure to work with veterans,” he said. “And after all they’ve contributed, who could be more deserving?”

Veterans at the job fair said they were impressed by what they saw and hopeful it will lead to job offers.

“This is a great opportunity,” said former Marine Cpl. Hector Nunez, who served with the first wave of Marines who entered Iraq in March 2003. “It makes me feel really proud and happy that I did something to deserve this.”

Nunez said he recognizes his antitank assault skills probably won’t lend readily to the civilian job market. He is hoping to land a job in law enforcement or security or to try his hand at something completely new.

“I’m a fast learner,” he said. “If they’re willing to teach me or offer some training, I’ll jump right into it.”

Christian Logan, a former Army Reserve sergeant who spent two and a half years on active duty at Fort Dix, NJ, supporting the war on terror, called the expo “the most concrete thing I’ve had in a long time” in his job search. Within an hour and a half of the fair’s 10 a.m. opening, Logan had already lined up an interview and gotten what he called “a few good leads.”

Dawn Hernandez, a Navy veteran with strong administrative skills as well as experience in medical billing and coding, said she was grateful for and impressed with the time and effort that went into setting up the job fair. She, too, hoped she would leave with some solid leads to help her land a job.

Army Staff Sgt. Tameika Jones, from the 408th Personnel Services Battalion at Fort Totten, NY, moved from booth to booth, talking with employers with hopes they’d offer her a job that would help her piece her life back together after her one-year deployment to Kuwait.

“It fills my heart with joy and pride in my service,” Jones said of the employers’ participation in the job fair. “This shows that our service and time is really appreciated.”

“This is really good for veterans coming out” of the military, agreed Army Spc. Michael Griffith, an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran who now serves as a logistics supply specialist for the New York National Guard.

Griffith, who takes pride in acknowledging he served with the 4th Infantry Division when its members captured former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, said he’s hopeful he can use his military experience in a civilian career.

Veterans have a lot to bring to their employers, he said. “We’re dedicated; we work hard; we have attention to detail; we take orders very well; and we’re intelligent,” he said. “That’s something that has to make employers want to give us a chance.”

In addition to the New York Times, other partners in the job fair were the New York City Department of Education, ESPN, General Motors, Home Depot, MacTools, Hire Disability Solutions, and Hire Vets First.

Mark Szollar from the New York Times, who helped plan the event, said he expects the job fair to become an annual event that may rotate to other major cities around the country.