Career fair helps bridge gap between military, civilian life

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Diesel Driving Academy admissions officer Jan Musik said her company took part in the career fair to help provide the skills veterans need to enter the trucking industry. The academy, she said, has eight to 10 veterans now. “We’re open to everyone, but veterans should get first priority because they’re the ones fighting for our freedom,” Musik said. “A lot want to do this to get out there, see the country and get paid a good salary to do it.”

A dozen military veterans listened quietly to Mike Rollins in the lobby of Harrah’s Louisiana Downs.

“Don’t limit yourselves. Don’t just talk to one or two companies because of their name,” he advised before they headed into a job fair Thursday in an adjoining conference room. “You don’t want to work in the oil field? Remember, each of them is a corporation with human resources, administration, technical and mechanical needs. They’re all here for you.”

Some veterans wore military uniforms; others, suits. Some came alone, others brought their spouses and children. They were young and old, active-duty military and those transitioning into civilian life.

But they all needed and wanted the same thing — an opportunity to use in civilian employment the skills they earned through military service.

“Look at this kid here,” Rollins said. “He probably just came back from Afghanistan, where he was kicking in doors without knowing if certain death was behind it. It’s a shame he has to come back here and look for a job. To me, there’s no one more deserving.”

Rollins is national accounts director for RecruitMilitary, the national military-to-civilian transitional service that held the job fair. Veteran-owned, veteran-operated and veteran-advised, the organization hosts 64 hiring events in 36 cities annually.

Thursday was RecruitMilitary’s first venture in Shreveport-Bossier City, and was held in partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes program. More than 30 local, regional and national businesses and more than 300 veterans were registered to participate.

“Anybody putting veterans to work is doing a service to the country,” Rollins said. “But, to us, being veteran-owned means we’ve been in their shoes. We understand. We can connect with them. Our message is: If you’re going to hire one person this year, why not make it a veteran?”

The unemployment rate among veterans was 6.6 percent in August, down from 7.7 percent in August 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. By gender, the jobless rate in August was 9.1 percent for female veterans, was 9.1 percent in August; 6.3 percent for male veterans.

Tonya Veazey, who left the Army in 2006, spent Thursday searching for flexible, part-time employment. She arrived at the career fair with her husband, Tamiko Veazey, who is active in the Army.

“A lot of people don’t want to hire,” Tonya Veazey said. “They say they’ll hire you but not your spouse. They aren’t flexible with his schedule, which means they aren’t flexible with mine.”

Veazey and her husband are raising three children. She’s studying nursing at Bossier Parish Community College in Bossier City. And she’s on her own when her husband is deployed.

“Some people think military spouses don’t want to work, that they just want to stay home. That’s not it,” she said.

The military absorbs a bulk of time many young people use to educate themselves for civilian jobs or to develop a skill set that would put them to work. For many veterans, young and old, leaving the service is the first reason to think of a post-military career... Continue reading.