The American Legion hosted a Heroes to Hometowns Job Fair on Aug. 28 at the Milwaukee Theater during its 92nd national convention. The event connected more than 50 veteran-friendly employers with about 200 veterans looking for jobs.
"A lot of veterans gained information about potential employers, and employers increased the quality of their candidate pools by meeting these veterans," said Randall Fisher, chairman of the Legion's Economic Commission. He estimated that about 20 percent of the veterans who attended may have walked away from the event with job offers.
Jeremy Pirelli, a Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq, was at the fair looking for a job in aircraft maintenance. He is moving in a few months when his wife, Angel, joins the Air Force. Although they don't know where she will be stationed, they were looking for potential nationwide employers.
"I found my current job at a job fair one and a half years ago. So you never know where this fair could lead," Pirelli said.
Another Marine Corps veteran, Steven Schuldt, just left the service after two tours in Iraq. He was at the fair "looking for anything." Job statistics from July show that OIF/OEF veterans have an unemployment rate of 11.5 percent, compared to a national 9.5 percent rate.
"If (The American Legion) is going to set this up for us, we should at least come out," Schuldt said. "It may lead to opportunities you didn't know about - which may lead to a fulfilling career."
One company at the job fair, Veterans Green Jobs - obviously - hires and trains a lot of veterans. In 2009, the Wal-Mart Foundation provided it with $750,000 in seed money to become a national organization. "One of the areas we train veterans in is weatherization of homes and other structures, which we see as a growth industry in the coming years" said Zack Bazzi, director of the organization's mid-Atlantic programs.
Jamie Frankel, recruiter for Bank of America, said job fairs like the H2H event are win-win situations for the company and veterans. He said the number of veterans employed by Bank of America has increased by 178 percent in the last year.
Brett Bolman, a field operations manager with RCS Retail Interior, knows firsthand why hiring veterans is a benefit to employers; he served in the Navy from 1988 to 1992. "Veterans have a great work ethic; they appreciate structure and thrive within it," Bolman said. "We employ a lot of veterans."
He estimates that about 30 percent of the company's employees are veterans.