FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- A national effort to connect members of the armed forces and their families with jobs will be setting up shop on Fort Jackson next week.

The Hiring Our Heroes Job Fair is designed to allow active duty, Reserve and National Guard service members, retirees, veterans, Department of the Defense civilians and their families access to employers interested in their skills and experience.

The event takes place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., March 6 at the Solomon Center.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rate of unemployment for military veterans increased from 11.5 percent in June 2010 to 13.3 percent in June 2011. These numbers could potentially increase as service members return from Iraq and Afghanistan during the next five years.

"The goal of Hiring Our Heroes is to help out veterans and military spouses to find meaningful and solid employment," said Carolyn Andrews, transition services manager for Fort Jackson. "We have all sorts of job providers, including private, public, contracting and non-profit organizations. We have about 85 employers and 15 service providers attending."

Ike McLeese, president and CEO of the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce, said the event was not tailored to meet specific skills and talents. Instead, organizers decided to open participation to any business that wanted the opportunity to hire employees with military backgrounds.

"We just put the word out there for anybody," McLeese said. "We've carved out a space for 85 businesses ranging from manufacturers to high-tech companies to real estate companies, colleges and universities looking for instructors ... it runs the gamut."

Employers were invited only if they had immediate job openings, Andrews said.

People interested in attending can upload their resume so that potential employers can review them prior to the event. Register online at

"People should bring their resumes but we encourage them to pre-register online," Andrews said. "Employers will have the opportunity to see their resumes prior to the event."

McLeese indicated that the event promises to be well attended.

"We've already have more than 500 Soldiers or veterans signed up," McLeese said. "We're already booked for employers and have a waiting list. We're very pleased with the response from both employers and veterans. We have companies coming here from all over the state."

Columbia's relationship with Fort Jackson goes back more than a century, McLeese said. The local government raised money in 1911 to purchase the land, giving the deed to the U.S. War Department with the hope it would, some day, lead to the establishment of a military installation. That vision became a reality in 1917 and, today, Fort Jackson attracts more than 75,000 visitors to the city every year, most of them family members of Soldiers participating in Basic Combat Training.

Naturally, he'd like to see many of those people settle down in Columbia after leaving the military.

"Our goal is to make the Columbia area the most military friendly city in the United States," McLeese said.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched its Hiring our Heroes program in early 2011, a yearlong nationwide effort to help veterans and their spouses find employment. While the main focus of the effort is to conduct 100 hiring fairs for veterans and military spouses in local communities across the country, it has also created strategic partnerships to deal with specific populations of veterans and their unique challenges in three other areas: a Wounded Warrior Transition Assistance Program, a Student Veterans Internship and Employment Program, and a Women Veterans and Military Spouses.

Page last updated Fri March 2nd, 2012 at 14:21