News: Employers say present to veterans
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Julio Nieves
READING, Pa. - Hundreds of service members, veterans, and dependents sought employment at the first Berks County Military Job Fair hosted by the 326th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, 314th Press Camp, 412th Theater Engineer Command, U.S. Army Reserve and the Berks County Society for Human Resource Management, located at the Berks County Agricultural Center in Leesport, Pa., July 24.
Although the economy continues to improve at a slow rate, many veterans are still out of jobs and continue to look for the opportunity to be successful in life.
“Today over 35 employers were present at this military and veteran job fair,” said Maj. Mary L. Olodun, 326th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment commander, who is also the Reading Reserve Center commander and one of the organizers of the first Military and Veterans Job Fair in Berks County, Pa.
Al Rivera, a West Point graduate who served in the 101st Division Fort Campbell, Ky., now general manager for the C&S Wholesale Grocers, Bethlehem, Pa., facility came to the job fair looking to hire veterans.
“Around 30 percent of our employees at the Bethlehem branch are either veterans or current service members,” said Rivera. “We make it a priority to hire veterans. What makes them quality employees is that they have a sense of teamwork and ownership that we, the employers, look for.”
Due to the commitment that service members have with the nation, requiring them to be away from their civilian jobs throughout the year, many companies are not as eager to hire Reservists or Guardsmen, but those who specifically look for service members understand the value in doing so.
“Nothing but positive experiences,” said Rivera. “Every time they go and conduct their military training, our company as a whole, benefits from the fruit of what the military has taught them. Many times I have seen that they come back from their training with new skills and more efficient ways of doing their jobs at our facility.”
Olodun, whose military profession is public affairs and who has volunteered as co-chair of the military job fair committee, did not allow the U.S. Army Reserve ambassador for Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) committee, miss this opportunity to showcase their employer award, which is presented to an employer for their continuous support to service members.
“This is a token of appreciation on behalf of the Chief of the Army Reserve Lt. Gen. Jeff W. Talley,” said the U.S. Army Reserve ambassador, George Duell Jr., as he presented Rivera with a coin, medallion and flag.
“We recognize that employers like C&S Wholesale Grocers, who is represented by Mr. Rivera, go above and beyond in supporting our service members’ careers,” said Duell, who also served as Pennsylvania’s past state chair of ESGR.
Rivera was also presented with the ESGR’s Patriot Award signed by the secretary of defense. As one employer is rewarded for their support, service members also feel rewarded.
The presentation of the award that Rivera received was because one of his employees nominated C&S Wholesale Grocers for being very supportive of their military commitment in the reserve on the ESGR website, and Mr. Aderemi Olodun, ESGR chair, East Central Region of Pennsylvania, who is also husband to Olodun, travels around the eastern-central region of Pennsylvania presenting every award for service members, representing any branch of service, nominating their employer. The highest award is the Freedom Award and is actually presented by the secretary of defense in Washington, D.C.
“It is extremely important employers know that we stand with them by partnering together during events like these, to ensure, as a commander, I let them know how much we appreciate the sacrifice they make one weekend a month, and two weeks a year by allowing their employee to serve by being my soldier at those times,” said Olodun.
“Finally, something that applies to me for once,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Benjamin May, an unmanned aircraft operations technician stationed at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa. “I’m getting out of the Active Guard Reserve program, so when I heard about this job fair I was very excited.”
“Military” Job fairs are not often heard about across our nation as often as they may be needed: it calls for organizers, employers and recruiters who have an understanding of the military education system and how the military/veteran lifestyles work.
“This is one of the most diverse job fairs I have ever experienced in Berks County, which seemed to have a well mix of military backgrounds, genders and ages,” said, Mr. Dale Derr, who is the director of Berks County Veterans Affairs and one of the volunteer committee members for the job fair. “Having the National Guard and the Army Reserve on this committee made it richer and expanded our reach to help it to be more diversified. We certainly need to maintain this relationship when planning future military job fairs.”
Besides the many employers seeking veterans, multiple workshops were also available in order to enhance the job-seekers’ skill sets and knowledge base on how to become more attractive to the employer.
“About a year ago, I recruited a Reservist who served as an ammunition specialist,” said Kari McEwen a recruiter for National Penn. “He had all the experience and skills required to work in the financial industry: from operating computer hardware and software, in order to perform stock control and accounting procedures, to providing excellent customer service to our customers.”
Rivera confirms, for many service members and their commanders, that employers like him understand in ways that sometimes only a veteran can relate to, “Hiring veterans and current members of the armed forces is our way of saying thanks for the sacrifices they make for our country.”