Soldiers transition to civilian workforce
October 11, 2012
FORT SILL, Okla.-- The Army's troop strength is shrinking as the war in Afghanistan winds down, and many Soldiers face leaving the military and entering the civilian job market at a time when good jobs are hard to find.
To help military personnel who are leaving the service, the Army Career and Alumni Program held a hiring event in September. The event brought Soldiers looking for jobs together with companies seeking to hire new employees.
"That's the hardest part, getting an employer connected to the right Soldier, because they don't understand each other, don't speak the same languages. That's what we focus on with events like this," said George Hubbard, ACAP contractor installation manager. "Even with sequestration coming next year and the economy not being so good right now, there is still a demand for quality Soldiers and their family members. We just want to match the demand with the supply."
Soldiers were encouraged to sign up ahead of time, entering their personal information to narrow their job searches. Most of the Soldiers were pre-registered, and even those who weren't could sign up at the job fair, according to Jaquetta Bowden, ACAP counselor.
"I think some of them weren't showing up on the registration list, because it was run before some of them signed up," Bowden said. "Most of them were able to log in when they got here. It's important for them to indicate their job interests, because that pairs them with the right company when they go to the event."
Hubbard said the hiring event featured 28 companies and agencies, such as Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Goodyear, the Texas Department of Corrections and others.
"The companies we are working with have jobs that run the gamut - leaders, managers, supervisors, computer specialists, truck drivers and mechanics, you name it they are looking for it," Hubbard said.
There were also representatives from a number of colleges and universities present for Soldiers who want to go to school after their service is over.
Spc. Tony Coronado, B Company, 100th Brigade Support Battalion, was especially interested in attending the hiring event. He will soon be getting out of the Army after 15 years of service.
"I'm looking for something in logistics. There is actually a company that I have applied with, and they are at this job fair. I didn't know they were going to be here, so I am going to go to their booth and talk to them for a while," Coronado said. He was excited about transferring the skills he learned while in the Army to a civilian job.
Other Soldiers were eager to find a new job outside the military.
"I retired last week, and after a week my wife told me to go look for a job. So I came to the job fair," said retired Sgt. 1st Class Paul White. "I was in the 31st Air Defense Artillery Brigade, working with Patriot missiles. There are not a whole lot of civilian job equivalents to working with Patriots, but my other assets are that I was a sergeant first class and I've had experience managing adults."
"We see about 200 to 300 Soldiers a month who are getting out of the Army and looking for jobs. It may be growing soon, but we really don't know yet," Hubbard said. "Our program is being beefed up here at Fort Sill. There are new classes that ACAP is going to be teaching, and the Department of Labor is teaching new classes, as well as the Veterans Affairs office. So it's becoming more robust.
"ACAP is not a job broker, or anything like that. Our mission is to train Soldiers in the job search process; help them put together their resumes, learn how to interview, how to search for jobs on the Internet and find these companies. Then, we teach them how to connect with those companies that have jobs and are looking for somebody of their caliber, that have the same strengths, skills and abilities they have," he said.
ACAP is planning to host more job fairs, with the next one planned for November. He believes these hiring events help Soldiers who are just getting out, as well as those who may not leave the military for another year.
"They're getting to meet some potential employers and experience what the job search process is all about. Even those who aren't getting out for a year or so find it valuable. It's a real good learning opportunity for these Soldiers," Hubbard said.