Hundreds gather for job fair at Legion post

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Hundreds of veterans lined up outside Hollywood Post 43 on April 23 waiting for the doors to open, but this time it was not for a film screening or comedy show. The stars of this event were job seekers looking to network, improve their skills and apply directly for careers with nearly 50 potential employers ready to hire nationwide.

The American Legion sent national leaders to participate in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes (HOH) initiative, a nationwide effort to connect veterans, servicemembers and military spouses with meaningful employment opportunities.

Rodney Rolland, director of Human Resources for The American Legion National Headquarters, led a workshop on resume building, networking and interviewing. After the class Rolland was available to review individual resumes and offer advice. “This is kind of my side job, I step outside my typical role as a HR director and come out and let veterans hear from real HR people what we particularly look for in resumes,” said Rolland. “The hiring process is not always just about the hiring manager. There is a process with most companies.”

Rolland’s training addresses ways veterans can prepare their resumes to make them best qualified for jobs they are seeking. “Veterans typically get very basic instructions on how to present their resume, and how to do interviews,” Rolland explained. “What they don’t get are those small details that separate a good candidate from a great candidate. We all know being a great candidate is what actually gets you a position. So I serve as that piece to minimize the communication barrier that often exists between companies and veterans being able to sell themselves for opportunities. “

Working with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s vast network of state and local chambers and strategic partners from the public, private, and non-profit sectors, Hiring Our Heroes goal is to create a movement across America where veterans and military families return every day.

Other resources like the Marine for Life Program (M4L) were also available. The Marine for Life Network is dedicated to providing connections to opportunities for transitioning Marines, veterans and spouses. One of M4L’s primary efforts is through providing visibility on social media platforms with a strong focus on LinkedIn.

Mike Miller, director of Private and Public Engagement for the Department of Defense, described how they have put a lot of time and energy into revamping what they do over the past five years. “Part of that is partnering with Hiring our Heroes, part of that is supporting what employers are doing,” said Miller. “To ensure that we are putting people back into society that we’ve provided information to about what the outside world looks like and how to engage with you (employers), and to engage with you to help you better understand what talents and skills they are brining.”

Tony Forbes, regional vets' employment coordinator for the U.S. Department of Labor, explained some of the programs available. He introduced the Registered Apprenticeship program that provides paid on-the-job learning and academic instruction that reflects specific industry needs. This program works with Department of Labor and their state partners with numerous training opportunities available to develop veterans into the skilled workers our economy needs to thrive. Registered Apprenticeships are not just for trades like plumbing and welding. DOL’s Office of Apprenticeship works with 150,000 employers and has created programs for over 1,000 occupations. They recently announced $100 million in grants to develop and implement innovative, high-quality registered apprenticeship programs

Forbes also explained the hiring vets medallion program, which is the only federal-level veterans' employment award that recognizes a company or organization's commitment to veteran hiring, retention and professional development. “It’s a tool to let veterans know that you are a veteran friendly, veteran ready employer,” said Forbes. “We are encouraging transitioning servicemembers to look for employers who have the medallion program identifier.”

Communication was a common theme throughout the hiring event. “Being a veteran myself makes my class a little more enticing because I don’t need to spend a lot of time developing that chemistry that’s typically necessary with veterans,” said Rolland. “I minimize the communication barrier that often exists between civilians giving the class and the veteran. Often veterans struggle with receiving the information. As a Marine Corps veteran, I can relate.”

The American Legion works with the Chamber, high-profile employers and other groups in support of today’s veterans and transitioning servicemembers who often face obstacles to gainful employment in the civilian world.

“Today’s military isn’t yesterday’s military,” said Miller. “This highly technical force that’s coming out has leadership, and experience, and technical capabilities that far exceed anything that we’ve ever seen. That’s the big picture, that’s why we do it, that’s why we’re grateful for what these employers are doing, we know that it takes a lot of energy, a lot of passion, and we thank them for that.”

Rolland agreed and pointed out the bigger picture.

“What we’re trying to do is not just get veterans jobs, but get them careers,” he said. “If that is happening, whether that comes directly from us or from others, then I think that’s great. I think the communication barrier is shrinking. I think a lot of times we overthink it, when at the end of the day it’s not that veterans are not qualified or fit, it’s helping them with the ability to get their information over to civilians and vice versa. If we can find a way to minimize that communication gap, then veterans find more opportunities.”