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APRIL 20, 2012 EMPLOYMENT The right set of skills, values for the job

Nearly 1,000 veterans and their spouses turn out for Hiring Our Heroes career fair in Chicago, bringing with them the tools to do the job. By Steve B. Brooks

When Tony Segalla leſt the Air Force and wanted to

pursue a career in the fi nancial industry, he wasn’t exactly welcomed with open arms. He and fellow veteran Mark Powell – both Chicago-area fi nancial advisors for Edward Jones – manned a booth for four hours on March 28 to make sure fellow veterans aren’t getting the same treatment. T e pair participated in the U.S. Chamber of

Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes job fair at the Chicago Hilton. T e fair – a celebration, of sorts, of the Chamber’s one-year anniversary of the program – featured 135 local and national companies. More than 900 veterans and spouses preregistered to attend the fair; dozens more showed up at the door. “When I applied (at one fi nancial company), they told

me, ‘You’re not a salesman,’” said Segalla, who spent 10 years on active duty and another 10 in the Air Force reserves before retiring in 2008. “But Edward Jones looked at me and said, ‘With your military background, we know the ethics you have. We know the standards you have.’ T at’s why I’m here. You can teach someone to be a salesman. But when you hire a veteran, you know you are getting a certain set of values, ethics and standards, which can help you become an entrepreneur.” Launched in March 2011, Hiring Our Heroes has

conducted nearly 120 career fairs in 45 states over the past year, helping put more than 8,500 veterans and spouses in jobs. T e Chamber has partnered with NBC News to spread the word. “TODAY” did a segment on the program March 28, broadcasting from USS Intrepid in New York and reporting from Chicago and Fort Hood, Texas. “When we announced our partnership with the

“TODAY” show and NBC, and we brought on the Legion, the VFW, the (Illinois) Comptroller’s Offi ce, it seemed like a perfect storm of partnerships to make it as successful as it is today,” said Marady Leary, director of events for Hiring Our Heroes. “(T e relationship with NBC) is very critical because there’s only so much marketing we can do through the local partnerships. To get to the masses, we need an outlet like NBC.” But organizations like the Legion are critical to

Hiring Our Heroes’ success, Leary said. “We’re really trying to partner with the Legion posts across the nation to help them host hiring fairs in their hometowns. T ere

CAREERS Guard summit shows value of hiring veterans

Around 130 representatives from companies convened on Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis., to hear about the benefi ts of employing veterans. “T ey come with great attitudes, great aptitudes, are

By Andy Romey T e confi nes of Lambeau Field have seen greats like

Vince Lombardi, Bart Starr and Brett Favre, but the country’s real heroes were the focus at the legendary stadium during the Wisconsin National Guard Business Summit on March 30. Corporate employment experts, state Guard offi cers and government representatives all convened in the home of the Packers in Green Bay, Wis., to convey one message: that a veteran brings unique value to a company. T e American Legion Department of Wisconsin helped sponsor portions of the event, and staff members from Legion National Headquarters were in attendance. T e inaugural summit welcomed around 130 business

representatives from companies like Walmart, Oshkosh and Alliant Energy to hear about how veterans make ideal employees, with their service-learned skills, discipline and federal insurance benefi ts that can help an employer’s bottom line.

very assertive, have leadership, judgment and are safety-oriented,” said Mike Hinz, vice president of driver recruiting at Schneider National. “T ese are all things any employer would want in a great employee, and they manifest themselves in our military men and women.” Wisconsin National Guard Adj. Gen. Donald Dunbar

echoed similar sentiments about the benefi ts of hiring veterans. Dunbar noted that the unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans is currently at 12.3 percent, and “soſt numbers” indicate that the unemployment rate for Guardsmen and reservists might be above 20 percent. To him, the solution is showing companies the practical and economic benefi ts of hiring a veteran who oſt en comes with specialized training and state-provided insurance. “I think when a business man or woman sees the

quality that can come from hiring a veteran, they are going to run and try to hire them,” Dunbar said. “It’s just a matter of spreading the word, and we are doing that now.”

Department of Wisconsin Commander Denise

Rohan and other department Legionnaires were integral in arranging the summit and providing sponsorship. T e department is proactive in fi nding veterans employment and hosts job fairs around the state. “T e very fi rst resolution to come to the National Convention in 1919 was about employment of our veterans and making sure that our disabled World War I veterans have jobs,” Rohan said. “It just seems natural that T e American Legion continues through the years to make sure that are heroes are hired when they come home.” Dunbar sees eff orts like the Legion’s as evidence of a

changing culture and public perception of the military. “I really credit the Legion and the veterans who

served in the Vietnam era who maybe had a diff erent experience with the public than the one we’re having today,” he said. “I think they’ve made a decision that things are going to be diff erent, and they’ve really laid a foundation to help this generation with its connection to the American public.”

Above: Résumé-review services were provided by Navistar and volunteers. Right: More than 900 veterans attended the job fair in Chicago. Sarah Tilotta

are a lot of businesses that are looking to go into rural communities that we might not have saturated yet. Over the next year, 200 of the 400 (Hiring Our Heroes) events are going to be Legion events.” T e Legion was one of the partners in the Chicago

event. Department of Illinois Legionnaires manned two booths at the fair, handing out literature on Legion programs and answering benefi ts questions. “Job fairs are wonderful events for returning veterans

coming home to no jobs,” said Department of Illinois Vice Commander Wayne Wagner. “We’re here to help in any way that we can ... and get the employers and unemployed veterans together, and provide those employers with very well-qualifi ed and very well-trained employees through the job fair. “We’re here to inform the veterans of their benefi ts

available, and that there’s a wide variety. If they’re disabled, we have service offi cers to help them with their claims. We’re also explaining any programs T e American Legion has for their dependents if they need help in any way.” Working the job fair meant a busy day for

Department of Illinois VA&R Director Wayne Macejak, who spoke with several veterans who had no idea that they were eligible for VA benefi ts, or that their benefi ts could increase as their conditions worsened. “T at’s the reason I’m doing this,” he said. An impressive lineup of employers manned booths at

the Hilton – Walmart, Chase, Farmers Insurance, Allstate, NBC and Northrop Grumman, among others. Many of the employers spoke of the value of hiring veterans and the skills they bring to civilian workplaces.

“T is isn’t us doing something for the veteran,” said

Eric Chibnik, senior vice president of GE Capital, Americas in Chicago. “T is pool of talent, they have the characteristics and the traits and the skills that we need in all of our divisions – whether it’s our industrial side or our capital side. T ese folks, they’re disciplined, they’ve faced unbelievably diffi cult conditions, they’ve learned to work great in a team environment, and all those basic skills and character traits are vital to fi nding great employees. It’s really an ideal talent pool for us.” Job-seeking advice was also available. Navistar and

local volunteers worked together to provide résumé- writing tips and interview coaching. “We also have what we call veterans mentors,” said Jan Barbour, who volunteers in the Veterans Community Relations offi ce in Naperville, Ill. “T ese are handpicked veterans from Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Korea, who are here to talk to veterans. T ese are people who have been successful in their private lives who can talk to the veterans, nod and say, ‘I’ve been there.’” For Army veteran Martin McGrenera, the fair was

an excellent opportunity to test the employment waters with a wide variety of employers. T e 31-year-old McGrenera, who served in the Army from 2000 to 2008, is currently majoring in computer science at Northeastern Illinois University while working part time. “It was very encouraging,” he said. “T ere can’t be enough job fairs. T ere’s so many people every day getting out of the military facing the same thing we’re all facing.”

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