With the veteran unemployment rate peaking at 12.1 percent last year, more service members are taking advantage of the many job fairs geared toward helping veterans and their families find the right fit for a job in the civilian workforce.
More than 800 active-duty and transitioning service members, retirees, veterans, reserve members and their families attended a Hiring Our Heroes Veterans Event hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce at the Pacific Views South Mesa Club here, Sept. 20.
The chamber partnered with the State of California Employment Development Department, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the American Legion, the Department of Labor Veterans’ Employment & Training Services, the California National Guard and Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Community Services to put on the event.
The Hiring Our Heroes Program, a nationwide initiative to help veterans and military spouses find meaningful employment, was established in March of 2011 by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's National Chamber Foundation.
With a network of more than 1,600 state and local chambers and other strategic partners from the public, private, and non-profit sectors, the goal of the initiative is to create a movement across America in hundreds of local communities where veterans and military families return every day.
To date, Hiring Our Heroes has hosted more than 255 hiring fairs in 49 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia, and more than 10,400 veterans and spouses have landed jobs.
The event served as an opportunity for those with military affiliations to meet with local and national employers, said Marady O’Leary, national director of events with Hiring Our Heroes.
“Every employer represented today has a proven track record of being committed to hiring veterans,” said O’Leary. “Our main goal is to decrease unemployment among veterans and their families and show that those transitioning back into the civilian workforce are a valuable commodity.”
More than 80 military-friendly organizations were on hand to speak with and interview job seekers for positions available locally, statewide, nationwide and overseas.
Potential hiring companies included Lockheed Martin, the Los Angeles Police Department, Time Warner Cable, Citigroup and the California Conservation Corps, among others.
“This is a great opportunity for service members and veterans to start thinking about their future and making some great connections,” said Lyle Forcum, executive director of building operations and loss prevention for the Panda Restaurant Group, Inc. and a former Marine. “The connections each person makes here will be invaluable once they leave the military, and every employer here is dedicated to ensuring these veterans are taken care of. Many of the representatives here today are veterans themselves, and our motto is still ‘leave no one behind.’”
Throughout the day, participants handed out resumes, gathered information on available companies and took advantage of the opportunity to build their network of contacts.
Several attendees said the benefits and the opportunities provided by the expo were too good to pass up.
“I really wasn’t expecting this many companies to be here today. There are definitely a lot of opportunities in this room,” said Lance Cpl. Nikko Falcon, a generator mechanic with 1st Intelligence Battalion, I Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group. “It’s nice to know that when I do leave the Corps, there are companies who are ready, willing and able to take me on.”
The overall goal of the day’s expo was for participants to extend their network, familiarize themselves with companies and their expectations and work on finding their fit once they transition into the civilian world, said O’Leary.
“We are tackling veteran unemployment and making this a national awareness campaign,” said O’Leary. “This is more than a hiring fair. This is a movement.”
For more information on Hiring Our Heroes and upcoming job fairs, visit www.uschamber.com/hiringourheroes.