By Robert Dozier, U.S. Army Installation Management Command September 21, 2012
SAN ANTONIO (Sept. 28, 2012) - The Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Civilian Personnel Policy encouraged the connections between transitioning military members and organizations looking to hire as she opened the Hiring Heroes Career Fair at the Sam Houston Club.
Paige Hinkle-Bowles visited San Antonio to meet prospective employers and Soldiers and to speak with human resource managers at Joint Base San Antonio about the importance of job fairs at military installations in the U.S. and around the world.
"Very quickly this room will get full," said Hinkle-Bowles. "We are anticipating 600 service members, spouses and caregivers. At last count we have over 40 employers here, including federal agencies, city and state, as well as DoD agencies, non-DoD agencies and corporations."
The job fair, hosted by the U.S. Army Installation Management Command's Army Career and Alumni Program, was part of IMCOM's effort to provided transition assistance services to Soldiers, their Family members, Civilian employees and veterans. Hiring Heroes is a DoD program helping service members whose careers were cut short due to injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan and to transitioning service members, Veterans and their spouses.
"As you meet with many of these service members, please keep in mind that some of these individuals may not have the exact skill matches for the jobs that you have," said Hinkle-Bowles. "They bring so much more to the table. They have strong leadership skills, team building and a strong work ethic and many qualifications for having served in the military. They are strong, dedicated and brave."
Civilian job fairs are not typically set up to address the needs of warriors in transition.
"This is a fantastic opportunity," said BG Theresa Carter, 502nd Air Base Wing Commander for Joint Base San Antonio. "There is no better place to do this event than Fort Sam Houston."
There are over 90,000 military members in the greater San Antonio community, plus retirees, highly qualified for any employment challenge, Carter emphasized.
"The big thing you can take away is that every one of these individuals that you will speak with today, first they volunteered. They raised their hand to serve, "said Carter. "In the process of going through basic training, technical training and serving their 4 or 6 year enlistment, they gained incredible knowledge and have demonstrated commitment, dedication, leadership and selfless sacrifice. They understand the type of work ethic that is required to make your company or organization successful."
Understanding each Soldier's unique background, preparation and record is the key to a successful employment match.
"We know that the economy is struggling and job opportunities are at a premium," said Carter. "Your presence here today will go a long way to giving our veterans and our transitioning service members a leg-up in being able to translate their sacrifice and service to the nation into a true asset for your company and a wonderful opportunity for them and their families. I guarantee this will be a significant return on your investment."
Just like everything else a service member does, preparing for and attending a job fair builds on the knowledge and experience they already have and helps move forward to a smooth transition to civilian life.
"To the service member, this is a great opportunity to showcase your skills and to test and if you have appropriately translated what you did in the military and get some feedback on how to move into the private sector or a government service position," said Carter. "At an event like this, depending on the size of the career fair, sometimes over 100 people walk away with a tentative offer or a job offer on the spot."
This was the 14th Hiring Heroes Career Fair at Fort Sam Houston. It didn't take long for the banquet hall to begin filling with eager applicants.
"The advantage of this type of event is the high-touch value of a smaller venue," said Hinkle-Bowles. "This gives the Soldier and wounded warriors a higher opportunity to walk away with job offers, tentative job offers or hot leads on job prospects. I am hopeful that this hiring fair will result in 175 employment connections. With this many employers in the room and the large number of Soldiers participating, this event is really worth it."
Early participants got the benefit of a clear shot at meeting recruiters and counselors in a position to make an employment decision.
"What a great experience," said SSG Chiroll Tolliver, of Company D, Warrior Transition Battalion. "It is a friendly environment and everyone is receptive."
To prepare for the job fair, units across JBSA were informed of the event and given time to get ready to attend.
"We had a pre-briefing yesterday on what to expect," said Tolliver. "My plan is to network as many companies as possible for my transition and keep all my options open."
Potential employers came prepared with materials, information and constructive counseling.
"We recognize the value of workforce trainability and reliability," said David Smith, vice-president, military veterans recruiting program, Bank of America. "Events like this will help us find candidates for positions in local banking centers and also information security professionals. We already have over 5,000 service members working at BOA."
Receptive employers like Smith expressed satisfaction with the quality of the prospective employees. "I just spoke to an Army recruiting professional," said Smith. "He is a great candidate for a job as a personal banker. He is exactly the kind of employee we are looking for."
This event was not the first for several employers, who find success once and come back again.
"I always make connections at military job fairs," said Corporal Arminda Henke, recruiter for the Texas Department of Public Safety. "Veterans are who we are seeking and their dependents as well. Over 60 percent of our DPS family is veterans with the structure, discipline and characteristics we need."
Many applicants looked tentative at first, but as the flow of the job fair progressed, it just became natural to just move in and introduce themselves.
"I just made a good connection at Defense Finance and Accounting Service and Bell Helicopter," said SFC Tracy Hurtt, of the Warrior Transition Battalion. "My suggestion is to have your resume typed and ready to hand out, because they can do an interview on the spot. "
The job fair is designed so that everyone can participate, but there are some very direct and practical pointers to break the ice. "Be yourself, be relaxed and enjoy talking," said Hurtt. "I'm retiring in the next year and want to secure the right IT position with a company that understands and appreciates my capabilities."
For information about events like this one, go to http://www.IMCOM.army.mil and click on Job Fairs.