News: Hero 2 Hired job fair comes together for veterans with strong community support
Story by Capt. Thomas Blackburn
CHEYENNE, Wyo. –Laura Jeffrey stood in the middle of the bustling American Legion Post #6 cafeteria, with a smile on her face.
Around her, numerous job seekers with military backgrounds were conversing with over a dozen employers from the state of Wyoming during the state’s first Hero 2 Hired job fair.
It was an event that almost didn’t happen.
In October when government staffs were temporarily sent home due to the lack of a federal budget due to the shutdown, Jeffrey was feverishly trying to get a Hero 2 Hired job fair off the ground for Wyoming’s Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve program. As a program support specialist, she works to line up employers and other assets for job fairs that target Wyoming’s past and present military members. For the federal H2H program, it meant dealing with a federal entity that had to deal with the shutdown and therefore delay advertising dollars she needed to pay local media outlets.
However, she learned that H2H was going to be able to supply its Cheyenne hiring event with full external support. Program members from the H2H headquarters in Washington were coming to Cheyenne with their full-size Mobile Job Store vehicle that could be used as a marketing tool and an employee access point for the H2H website.
“We found out we were getting the truck during the furlough, and had all the (local) papers interested,” she said. However, when the furlough became prolonged, and the money for the event became difficult to extract to pay for the advertising, Jeffrey said doubts arose on whether they would be able to attract enough people to the event.
When budgets were settled and funding released, Jeffrey had less than two weeks to advertise the event. That’s when she says the local community stepped up for the event and the veterans who had served their nation.
“(The papers) flooded the market for us,” she said. “They stepped up because the timeframe was so tight.” Half page ads went in varying papers across the region and one local radio station blasted the airwaves with the radio spot. Jeffrey was surprised by the willing support.
Sandy Williams, a program analyst with the Employee Initiative Program, which manages H2H, was impressed with what she saw.
“Glad to see this support in the local community,” she said. “I’m impressed since it was put on such short notice. Great public support.”
Jeffrey agreed with that as well as she looked around and saw numerous examples of the job fairs initial success.
A job seeker from the morning who had taken the opportunity to review his resume with an expert, had gone home, fixed it, and returned with copies to hand out to employers. One person sat nearby filling out an application. At another table, an employer handed several business cards to interested applicants after giving a small brief about the job. The opportunities were there, and local veterans were taking advantage of it.
The federally funded Heroes 2 Hire program has events across the nation and is designed to be a one-stop job search process, either at its in-person fairs or on the website. H2H is a way for veterans, retirees, current serving military and military families to access many different job search tools, as well as talk to employers about opportunities.
At the American Legion, interested veterans could sit down with a resume expert and critique their resume, discuss interview techniques, and talk face-to-face with human resource representatives from the 12 different employers there.
“This is the entry process to get things started,” Jeffrey said. “We have had a lot of support from employers. We had six employers show up this morning that hadn’t signed up and just came anyway.”
With such short notice to advertise, it was important for Jeffrey to provide an environment that benefited all parties involved.
“The intent is to help employers find the perfect employee and the employee to find the perfect employer,” Jeffrey said. “The goal is to link employers with the veteran.”
She said she couldn’t put a number on how many people would come to the event, but said that if one of them received a job it would be a success.
Some of the companies at the event included Wyoming Machinery, Dyno Noble, Echo Star, and SOS Staffing. Some of those employers Jeffrey had worked with previously in other job fairs. The job skills provided through military training are key assets to them.
“We’re helping veterans and getting skill sets that (the applicant) gains in the military,” said Wyoming Machinery human resource rep Casey Turcato, who also added that there is also extra satisfaction in helping veterans find jobs.
If a veteran does not find a job they like at the event, Jeffrey says the H2H website is the next step in locating that next career. On the website, a translator program helps a military member translate their job specialty into a definable civilian description so as to find opportunities that suit that career field. If a job is found that is acceptable, the applicant can apply, post a resume and seek advice from an employment transition coordinator that will follow up to provide further advice or support. Each state has their own ETC member and the applicant can choose to work closely with that person or choose to do it on their own.
Williams says that job seekers can receive an abundant amount of information and support during their transition process into another job with H2H online or at the job fairs.
“It’s a great outreach program, by using the vast resources of the ESGR,” she said. Williams details the hiring numbers so far this year to support the usefulness of H2H’s efforts. This year alone, 12,363 applicants have received jobs from using the program. Currently there are nationally over 19,000 registered employers, with 3.7 million jobs on the website, with over 200 employers added weekly.
In Wyoming, there are currently 31 companies offering 2,978 jobs, with 318 job seekers registered on the website. But, Williams says her work in helping the service members in Wyoming looking for better employment is not over.
“We want to find more employers in this area,” she said. “We want to help the service members here find better employment and to help update their job search skills.”
This work, Hero 2 Hired job fair comes together for veterans with strong community support, by MAJ Thomas Blackburn, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.