COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Both pre-registered Soldiers and veterans and walk-ins numbering a total of 1,176 job seekers attended the Hiring Our Heroes job fair held at Fort Jackson's Solomon Center on March 6.
With unemployment a top concern in this election year, the U.S. and Columbia Chambers of Commerce teamed up with the Employer Partnership of the Armed Forces, Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, the Fort Jackson command team and 75 businesses to put on the event.
"This surpassed any expectations," said Lt. Col. Kathryn Poynton, who was the lead for the event. As a New York Army National Guard officer, Poynton is the Military Fellow for the U.S. Chamber's Veterans Employment Programs. After many similar events, this one was the largest so far that she has been involved with involving four months of planning.
"This was simple because of the people I had to deal with here," she said. "This team gelled quickly. It's easier when there is a CG like this one whose doors are open to us." Poynton lauded post commander Maj. Gen. James Milano who offered Fort Jackson as a location site early in the planning process which consisted of weekly teleconferences and uncountable phone calls and emails.
Soldiers, veterans and their family members had the chance to peruse 75 employers ranging from food, industrial and utility companies to banks, law enforcement and consulting firms. "This is a hugely important opportunity," said Ross Cohen, Senior Director of the Veterans Employment Program at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, "for employers to meet thousands of Soldiers face to face to see the talents that they have."
The 81st Regional Support command was involved in the planning of the event since the first meeting. "It was important for us to get the word out to all of the Army Reserve Soldiers and families in the state," said 81st RSC Public Affairs Officer Lt. Col. Mike Brady. "These events offer our reserve component service members a continuum of career that complements their military service." The 81st used mass emails, flyers, social media and the local media as tool to communicate the job fair. "This event shows how the local community has come together to support our Armed Forces in hiring the best skilled and most capable work force - the American service member," Brady said.
Also present at the event was South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. "We have to make sure we have more of these job fairs," she said. "This is all of us getting in front of the problem instead of waiting for it to come to us."
"A survey will be sent to all employers and job seekers at the 30, 60 and 90 day mark requesting feedback from their experience," said Poynton. "Whether they were called for an interview, offered a position and/or accepted that position.