The VA for Vets hiring fair, organized by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in Detroit, is successfully under way at the Cobo Center. The 63-page meeting agenda, along with the expected 6,000 attendees, indicates the size and scope of the June 26-29 hiring fair — an event the VA is calling "the premier government event for veteran-owned small businesses."
VA for Vets in Detroit — the second of a nationwide series — is comprised of three components. The first is a small business conference to assist veterans — service disabled and otherwise — in creating and maintaining their own enterprises. A series of workshops are set to school entrepreneurial veterans on diverse subjects such as conducting business with the federal government, building company websites and understanding the principles of marketing.
Second, an "open house" is held where VA representatives provide attendees with information about their earned benefits and how to access them. Two Legionnaires from The American Legion Department of Michigan are also assisting with benefits guidance. Lannie Thomas, an American Legion Department of Detroit service officer and veteran law specialist, and his colleague Bob Rasche are manning a benefits information and counseling booth to provide advice and hands-on help. And third is the hiring fair, which includes writing résumés and job interviewing.
According to VA sources, more than 1,200 job-seekers registered before opening day. And by the time the hiring hall doors opened Tuesday morning, another several hundred had put their names down as employee prospects.
Additionally, more than 250 employers are present at the job fair to offer as many as 3,000 jobs. Employers consist of national chain operations to local ones such as General Motors, as well as government agencies like the VA — a place where Air Force veteran Kami Bolyard of Dexter, Mich., found a new job.
"I was in the Air Force for 10 years, and I was a supply technician and absolutely loved it," Bolyard said. "I wasn't ready to get out but ‘the husband' was also in 10 years, and he got his bachelor's and he wanted to get out. So, I kind of followed in his steps. I've been out of the Air Force for seven years and have been trying to get a government job, something with the VA, something with the government. And today at this job fair I was hired on the spot!"
Bolyard said she hadn't experienced any overt employer discrimination because of her military veteran status, though she was repeatedly rejected as being "overqualified." She too added that finding employment that fit her interests and Air Force job skills had been difficult . "I have had other jobs (since discharge) but none of them have lived up to what I am capable of doing and none have been what I've wanted."
In regards to her new job with the VA, Bolyard said she is "very happy to be back in the career field in which I was trained. (It) is working at the Ann Arbor veterans hospital. I'll be a logistics person purchasing supplies. It's a GS-7 position and I'm very happy starting there. All I can do is move up."
The new VA hire said after learning about the VA for Vets Detroit event on the radio, she immediately submitted her application and résumé online. "They were waiting for me here," Bolyard said. "All I had to do was the interview and that was that."
Bolyard called her husband immediately upon being accepted, in writing, for VA employment. "He was so excited," she said, "he was crying."