Hundreds of veterans attend Heroes 4 Hire job fair
By Frances Taylor - Staff Writer
East Hartford - posted Thu., Apr. 21, 2011
Brian Littman, 48, has been looking for a job for two and a half years. “It's been kind of rough, pretty hit and miss – I just can't seem to find anything,'' said Littman, an Air Force veteran who was laid off from his job as a warehouse manager.
Littman was among the hundreds of military veterans who came to Rentschler Field ballroom April 19 for the Heroes 4 Hire job and career fair. Eighty companies and organizations participated in the event, which was the largest veterans-only job fair held in the state.
“This is the largest Heroes4Hire job fair yet to take place, and the reason this event continues to grow each year is because employers recognize the value and skills a veteran can bring to the workplace,'' said Terry Brennan, director of the Office of Veteran Workforce Development for the state Department of Labor.
Employers from Aetnato Whole Foods filled the ballroom, which was filled with more than 500 veterans in the first two hours of the job fair. “This is a real experience for us to connect with veterans, to let them know what kind of opportunities there are for them with Whole Foods,'' said Jeff Chen, an information technology systems manager.
Jerry Glidden, an area specialist for Wackenhut, an international security company, said veterans were particularly qualified for the type of high-level security work that the company specializes in. “People with prior active duty experience are great candidates for us, and we know they have the type of skills and discipline that we are looking for,'' he said.
Kevin Schmiegel, vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, announced a nationwide initiative sponsored by chamber members in 100 cities to hire veterans. “Of the 12 million veterans in the workforce, one million of them are unemployed,'' Schmiegel said. “Among Afghanistanand Iraqvets, the unemployment rate is about 18 percent. As we draw down our forces in those countries, 50,000 Army and Marine veterans will be added to the workforce each year.''
Some prospective employers don't always understand how military skills can match up with civilian job skills, said Percival Francis, a vocational rehabilitation specialist who works with veterans at the ErreraCenterin New Haven. “It’s hard out there right now, with so many people unemployed,'' Francis said.
Michael Morris, 54, a former member of the Army National Guard, drove up from Norwalkto come to the job fair. He was laid off from his job as an electronic technician in October 2010. “It’s hard when there are 50 people all going for one job,'' Morris said. “I'm not giving up – I'm still hoping there is a crack in that wall somewhere I can fit into.''
Mayor Marcia Leclerc, state Sen. Gary LeBeau (D-East Hartford), U.S. Rep. John Larson (D-1st District) and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D) were among those who came to support the effort by the state and municipalities to reach out to veterans.
Blumenthal said the country has a moral obligation to help veterans make a successful transition back into the civilian workforce. He noted that the youngest veterans, those between the ages of 18 and 24, had the highest unemployment rate among vets, at about 20 percent. “We have a duty to our veterans to give them, not a hand-out, but a hand-up to those who have sacrificed for our freedom,'' Blumenthal said.
Participating companies and organizations included Connecticut State Police, Travelers, Walgreens, Yale University, United Illuminating Company, Verizon Wireless, Aetna, GoodwinCollege, Whole Foods, Mass Mutual, Dattco, Oakleaf Waste Management, The Hartford Financial Group, and dozens of others.
The veterans-only event was sponsored by the departments of Labor and Veterans’ Affairs, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Connecticut Business and Industry Association, the Travelers, CBS Radio and local chambers of commerce.