Fort McCoy News April 25, 2014

Hiring Our Heroes connects veterans, employers

STORY & PHOTO BY SCOTT T. STURKOL
Public Affairs Staff

A Hiring Our Heroes job fair at Fort McCoy April 10 connected hundreds of military veterans with prospective employers.

Hiring Our Heroes is a program run by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (USCOC) Foundation. According to the foundation, it was launched in March 2011 as a nationwide initiative to help veterans, transitioning service members, and military spouses find meaningful employment opportunities.

Photo for Hiring Our Heros article
Soldiers talk with employers during the Hiring Our Heroes job fair April 10 in Fort McCoy's building 50. Hundreds of service members, veterans and prospective employers attended the event.

"Working with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's vast network of state and local chambers and strategic partners from the public, private, and non-profit sectors, our goal is to create a movement across America in hundreds of communities where veterans and military Families return every day," according to the Hiring Our Heroes website.

Jennifer Giering, director of business and state engagement for the Hiring Our Heroes organization, said Fort McCoy was a great place to host the event. More than 50 employers and veterans organizations participated.

Giering said the idea to hold the event at Fort McCoy started with the office of Lt. Gen. Jeffrey W. Talley, Chief of the Army Reserve and Commanding General, U.S. Army Reserve Command.

"He recognized there was going to be a large population of troops on this base for specialized training during this time," Giering said, referring to the more than 4,500 Soldiers who participated in Warrior Exercise (WAREX) 2014.

"So, he invited Hiring Our Heroes and employers to come. It's been a wonderful working relationship."

Giering added, "This is a wonderful example of a public and private partnership working together to improve veteran and military spouse employment opportunities in this country."

Talley also attended the job fair, providing words of encouragement to those employers present.

"You should want to hire an Army Reserve Soldier or, I would argue, any former member of our armed forces," Talley said. "Don't do it because it's the right thing to do — do it because it's good for your bottom line."

The Hiring Our Heroes website offers digital resources for prospective job seekers.

These include distinct resume builders for veterans and transitioning service members as well as military spouses. A jobs portal also allows veterans and service members to search for employment opportunities in America's fastest-growing job markets and industries.

There's also "a virtual mentorship program that connects veteran and spouse protégés with experienced mentors," their website shows.

Eric Eversole, executive director of Hiring Our Heroes, said the Fort McCoy job fair was a great opportunity to introduce the veteran and Reserve community "to a lot of great employers in the Upper Midwest and throughout the country."

He said, "These are employers who understand the value proposition that Reservists and military members bring to the civilian workforce."

Master Sgt. Stephen Och of the 1st, 340th Training Support Battalion at Fort Snelling, Minn., said he was happy to have a chance to attend the job fair.

"Every time I hear about one of these events, it's usually after the fact and I miss out on the opportunity," said Och, who is a resident of Bangor, Wis.

"I happened to have the day off, so I was able to make it to this one. I didn't come here to get hired — I just came to see the companies and what they are offering and learn a little more about it."

Also attending the job fair was Sgt. 1st Class Marcus Perez from the Staff Sgt. Todd R. Cornell Noncommissioned Officer Academy. Perez said the timing of the job fair was good for him as he plans to transition out of the Army later this year.

"I was still trying to figure out how I was going to prepare resumes and approach employers," Perez said. "At this event, they were coming to me and asking what they could do for me."

Perez said he's now become a little more confident and comfortable in preparing for his transition to the civilian workforce. He described what he was looking for at the job fair.

"I'm looking for opportunities for employment that will be in areas, geographically, that I am interested in going to," Perez said. "I was looking at what companies have to offer and in what areas they have positions available."

According to Hiring Our Heroes statistics, more than 700 job fairs have been held nationwide, and more than 21,600 veterans and military spouses have obtained jobs through those job fairs.

Fort McCoy Director of Human Resources Terry Streeton, who helped organize the job fair on post, said there were 243 job seekers who either were preregistered or walk-ins for the job fair. They included people from all services as well as reserve-component forces.

"Overall, this job fair was a success. It was the first time an event like this held at Fort McCoy with the U.S. Chamber," Streeton said. "I'm certain, too, we will hold events like this again in the future when we have large exercises like WAREX."
During the fair, 228 resumes were accepted and 138 interviews were conducted. Most importantly, 13 job offers were made. Job offers were calculated from the exit surveys turned in at the event compiled by staff from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

An online email survey was sent to all employers and job seekers 48 hours following the event.

It is sent again at the 30-, 60- and 90-day marks requesting feedback from their experience, whether they were called for an interview, offered a position or accepted that position, according to Hiring Our Heroes.

Future Hiring Our Heroes job fairs within a day's drive from Fort McCoy will be held May 13 in Rochester, Minn., May 28 in Fargo, N.D., Aug. 7 in Minneapolis, Aug. 12 in Green Bay, Wis., and Sept. 18 in Chicago.

For more details about Hiring Our Heroes, visit the website http://www.hiringourheroes.org, or send an email to hiringourheroes@uschamber.com.