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Published: Thursday, 6/21/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Big hiring fair in Detroit to help veterans

VA expects 230 employers with 25,000 job openings

BY TYREL LINKHORN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Officials say more than 5,000 veterans have registered already to attend the job fair. They expect about twice that number to attend. Officials say more than 5,000 veterans have registered already to attend the job fair. They expect about twice that number to attend.
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For those who help the nation's former warriors, joblessness remains a top concern.

According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 880,000 veterans are without work.

Though the unemployment rate for all veterans is in line with the nation's overall unemployment rate, unemployment among young veterans is disproportionately high.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show 23.5 percent of veterans aged 18 to 24 were unemployed in May, compared with 15.2 percent of the nonveteran population in that age group. Those aged 25 to 34 faced an unemployment rate of 14.7 percent, versus 7.8 percent for those who have not served in the military.

"These are folks who may have signed up directly out of high school or a few years out of college. They come back into the civilian world [and] essentially the only job they've ever had was in the military," said John Sepulveda, the assistant secretary for human resources and administration in the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Mr. Sepulveda is overseeing a huge hiring fair and open house next week in Detroit that he said will help many of those jobless veterans land interviews and ultimately jobs.

HOW TO PARTICIPATE

■ The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ VA For Vets Hiring Fair and Veteran Open House will take place from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday at Cobo Center in downtown Detroit. Both events are free.

■ Officials expect the hiring fair to include more than 200 employers who are looking to fill approximately 25,000 government and private-sector jobs. At the open house, officials from the VA, state Veteran Service Commissions, and nonprofits will be there to help veterans take advantage of benefits and other programs.

■ About 10,000 veterans are expected to attend.

■ Veterans are asked to register a head of time at www.VAForVets.va.gov, though preregistration is not necessary. VA officials suggest veterans bring a copy of their resume and DD-214 separation papers if possible.

■ Those who need transportation can call 419-213-5627 to reserve a free seat on a bus that will leave Toledo at 8:45 a.m. Tuesday and return that afternoon.

■ Veterans unable to register online can call 1-855-VA4-VETS for career and resume coaching

About 230 employers looking to fill some 25,000 openings will have booths at the free event, which will be held Tuesday through Thursday at Cobo Center in downtown Detroit. Veterans who preregister through the www.VAForVets.va.gov Web site will get access to coaching, have their resumes distributed to prospective employers, and if they act in time, should have some interviews waiting for them when they arrive.

Officials say more than 5,000 veterans have registered already. They expect about twice that number to attend.

A similar January event in Washington, D.C., attracted more than 4,000 veterans.

The VA said that fair produced 2,600 on-the-spot interviews and more than 500 tentative job offers. They expect many veterans will leave the Detroit event with contingent job offers.

With so many veterans looking for work, the hiring fair's potential effect is huge.

One of the biggest challenges for veterans coming back to the civilian work force is difficulty explaining their military skills to private-sector employers.

"They're coming into the labor market at a difficult time," said Jim Walker, an economist with the Bureau of Labor Statistics. "When you're making a job transition, it's always difficult. Veterans have told us sometimes they have a hard time translating what they did in the military to a skill that a civilian employer would want."

The VA will have on hand people to help veterans with that translation.

Organizers are calling the event a hiring fair rather than a job fair because they say participating employers have a genuine interest in hiring from the event. Employers vary from a regional pizza chain looking for five employees to private military contractor DynCorp International, which has 3,000 openings.

Mike Walcoff, a former undersecretary for benefits with the VA, is coordinating the events in Detroit. He said a growing number of employers are making commitments to hire veterans.

"While certainly it's the patriotic thing to do and we appreciate that, they're getting something out of it," he said. "We firmly believe veterans make great employees. They come with great qualifications, they're mission-oriented, they're disciplined. They come with skills they learned in the military that I think often aren't appreciated in the public sector because they're not understood."

About a quarter of the open jobs are in Michigan, with another 3,000 in Ohio.

They're desperately needed in those two states.

Monthly state-by-state data wasn't available, but both Ohio and Michigan have recently struggled with higher veteran unemployment than the national averages. In 2011, the nationwide unemployment rate for all veterans was 8.3 percent. The nationwide post-9/11 veterans' unemployment rate was 12.1 percent.

In Ohio, those numbers were 10.7 percent for all veterans and 19.4 percent for post-9/11 veterans. Michigan came in at 11.3 percent and 14.4 percent.

The open house portion of next week's event, which is also free and located at the Cobo Center, is focused on helping veterans understand and sign up for federal and state benefits they have earned, as well as helping them connect with the various nonprofit services available to them.

A National Veterans Small Business Conference and Expo is also taking place. That will focus on how to win government and private contracts.

The cost to attend the small business expo is $400, and people can still register at www.nationalveteransconference.com.

"This is really a unique event. Never before have all three of these events been under the same roof at the same time. If a veteran comes and gives us a day, they're going to be learning things, getting information that could help them for the rest of their lives," Mr. Walcoff said.

The office of Rep. Marcy Kaptur has worked with the Lucas County Veteran Service Commission and Lucas County Commissioners to provide free bus transportation to the event from Toledo on Tuesday.

Veterans who need a ride are asked to call 419-213-5627 for reservations by midafternoon Monday.

The bus will leave The Source of Northwest Ohio at 8:45 a.m. Tuesday and return at about 1:30 p.m.

The Veteran Service Commission is funding the bus through its outreach program.

Representatives from Miss Kaptur's office said she plans to spend time with some of the veterans who are traveling.

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at: tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.



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