Army First Lt. Craig G. Cooley, Indiana Transition Assistance Specialist, discusses options with Kevin Elliott an E9 Navy Reservist. Photo by James V. Carroll

Hundreds of veterans attend career fair

The American Legion and RecruitMilitary organized a job fair on Nov. 18 that brought hundreds of veterans to the Indianapolis Museum of Art for career opportunities and employment resources. Companies and organizations from around the country set up booths and sent representatives to the event, giving attendees a chance to network with potential employers and preferential access to certain jobs.

Present at the fair were Prudential Financial, DeVry University, Amazon, National College, Comcast and Service Express, Inc. Government organizations, such as the CIA, were also in attendance.

Event organizers were pleased with the turnout.

“We’ve done, since 2006, about 300 of these, for the most part in every part of the country,” said John Lundberg, RecruitMilitary’s director of events. “The response we get is always very positive. It’s a good thing.”

Companies present at the event, which was free of cost, were looking for employees on the local, regional and even national levels. Attendees weren’t offered jobs on the spot, but the process of being hired began at the fair, which was attended by veterans as young as ones from the current War on Terror and as old as the Vietnam era.

Still, the goal of the career fair isn’t just to find people jobs, explains Army First Lt. Craig Cooley, who was there representing the Indiana Transition Assistance program.

“A veteran who is looking for a job or who has found themselves in a financial bind sometimes doesn’t realize there are other benefits out there that they might be eligible for,” Cooley said. “We kind of help push them toward them.”

As an advisor for the state’s Transition Assistance program, Cooley was representing one of the organizations at the event that wasn’t looking to hire veterans. Also attending the event were individuals like Cooley, who were presenting education options and offering veterans career advice.

“There is stuff out there that might not be a job right now, but it might be vocational rehabilitation with the VA or it might be going back to school and utilizing GI Bill benefits,” Cooley said. “I give them my phone number and tell them to give me a call.”

The event is one of about 60 career fairs that the Legion and RecruitMilitary hold each year in various locations throughout the country.

Lundberg said they’re the product of a fitting and natural partnership.

“It’s a great partnership,” he said. “It obviously makes sense. We’re both servicing military veterans and trying to help them in any way we can.”

With homelessness and unemployment among veterans at alarmingly high levels, the career fairs provide invaluable resources.

“We formed because there was a need for veterans to know where the best employment opportunities were when they got out of the military,” Lundberg said. “We found that veterans were separating and just kind of going home. Sometimes home isn’t where the best opportunities are. That’s why we view our events as outreach efforts to point people in the right direction.

“I know when I retired 12 years ago out of the Marine Corps, events like these didn’t even exist. It’s a thing that we’ve seen as being real positive for the military veterans.”