Transitioning service members, military spouses and veterans attending hundreds of job fairs around the country like one held in Hampton, Va., Aug. 2 are finding themselves on the proverbial red carpet as employers pack arenas to add those closest to the armed forces to their payrolls.
Job seekers maintained long lines at the booths of employers in industries long known to hire veterans, such as law enforcement and defense contractors, as well as some less traditional career paths, such as finance. The fair held at the convention center here was one of some 400 the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s “Hiring Our Heroes” program is hosting with Defense Department agencies this year.
Navy Seaman Terrance Cartlidge was among the service members who waited in line to speak with prospective employers about his post-military options. After nearly four years in the Navy, Cartlidge, 24, hopes to land a good job and go to college after he separates in November.
“I know we’re still in a recession, but this is exciting that people are wanting to hire right now,” he said. “I’m feeling pretty good about it.”
Andrea Hall accepted resumes and spoke with many prospective employees for her company, CSC, which counts 25 percent of its workforce as veterans or military spouses. CSC hired 1,800 spouses and veterans last year, with more than 600 of those having a disability, she said.
“You hear about the good will of employers [in hiring veterans and spouses], but this really speaks to our bottom line,” Hall said. “We want to put people who are comfortable with that environment, who speak the language of the military, who have or can get a security clearance” to work on defense contracts.
Like many recruiters focused on hiring from the military community, Hall understands it well because it was her world, too. She was an Army wife for 21 years until her husband retired last year. After years of trying to juggle a career through frequent moves, she settled into her current job in 2005 after working for the Army Spouse Employment Program.
Today, Hall said, she is happy to help spouses, transitioning service members, wounded warriors, and their caregivers get – and maintain – CSC jobs. “We have some spouses who have been here for years,” she said, noting that the company tries to place them in new jobs throughout their relocations.
“We advocate on their behalf,” she said.
Lockette Dickerson also has been on both sides of the hiring spouses table. She was the director of a welfare-to-work program for the city of Philadelphia when she married her husband, John, a 25-year Navy noncommissioned officer, six years ago. After living on opposite coasts through one Navy tour, the couple moved together to Japan, where Lockette found her “best fit” for employment with the Navy Exchange. She was able to transfer her Navy Exchange human resources job when the couple recently relocated here.
Dickerson said her co-workers at the Exchange have been understanding of military life – such as giving her leave when her husband first returns from ship duty – in ways that other employers may not. “That has been immeasurable as a benefit,” she said.
Military-related job seekers may also find support outside of defense-related jobs.
Thomas Haydon and Derrick Beggs, both recently separated from Army infantry divisions, were manning the Capitol One booth here as representatives of the banking giant’s military recruiting division. The two rattled off numerous cities they have been to or will visit in the coming weeks in an effort to grow the bank’s ranks of those with military-related experience.
“We’re growing, so we’re going all over the place” as Capitol One looks to fill 3,600 positions in the next year, Haydon said. Some of those jobs, such as loan coordinators, require no financial experience – but do require three years in the military, he said.
“It’s because of their skills, their abilities, … the duty, honor, and respect,” Beggs said of the targeted military hiring.
“It’s their ability to work in a team,” Hayden added. “It’s their ability to work under pressure, you name it — they make great employees.”
To show their support for spouses, Hayden said, Capital One recently launched a pilot program in Chesapeake, Va., and Tampa, Fla., where military spouses can work from home as call center associates.
Destiny Ashlock, a district leader for Primerica Financial Services, said her company also works to hire and keep military spouses by networking to transfer them as they move from state to state. Primerica’s regional leader here, retired Army Lt. Col. Daniel Roose, is committed to hiring from the military community, she said.
“We want employees who are motivated, trainable and who like helping people,” Ashlock said.
It’s because of the recession, and not in spite of it, Ashlock said, that Primerica is increasing hiring of people who can teach others to manage their money.
“We’re all about helping families,” she said. “Education is the main thing we do. We want to hire as many people as possible because the need out here is great.”