unemployment-lines_fc_web.jpgWEST PALM BEACH – Veterans have skills that companies value and are willing to bank on, according to employers at a recent job fair especially tailored for them.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s National Chamber Foundation sponsored the “Hiring Our Heroes” event at the Palm Beach County Convention Center.

About 200 United States military veterans attended the resource job fair in hopes of being hired for a position or at least getting some significant leads.

Chamber of Commerce event organizer Ernie Lombardi said the “Hiring Our Heroes” campaign gives vets across the country a chance to meet face-to-face with potential employers.  “Our mission is to set up these hiring (events) nationwide to have opportunities for veterans to talk to employers throughout the country,” he said during the Sept. 25 event.

Lombardi said the campaign started in 2011 and has almost met its goal of hosting 400 job fairs for vets nationwide before 2013, including 40 at the West Palm Beach venue.
“As far as the employers, we have boat manufacturers, Citi Bank, small staffing agencies, Verizon Wireless and others,” he said. “So we have a large representation from small-scale to large-scale (companies).”

U.S. Army Veteran Edeline St. Preux, 38, who recently got out of active duty, traveled from Port St. Lucie to attend the job fair. She has been searching for employment for about one month and said while events like “Hiring Our Heroes” are helpful, looking for work in a down economy is still challenging.

“Everywhere I go, they send me online.  It’s sit down in front of a computer and do a search and expect that you’re going to find some good leads,” Preux said. “But it’s definitely worth coming out to these events because you have a chance to make an impression. At least the person sees you and can judge (for themselves).”

Michael Thomas, 34, also an U.S. Army veteran, says he is 70 percent disabled from the wear and tear of being a combat medic, which included carrying many injured soldiers.

Thomas said he has found it difficult to find and keep and jobs due to his injuries and the time needed away from any position to tend to those medical issues.

“I’m an injured vet and I’ve been out of the workforce for a little while.  Now I’m ready to get back,” he said.

“Many times when you get on the workforce and they see how injured a person is, it’s harder because a lot of employers don’t want someone who’s injured.”

Waste Management recruiter Desiree Akel said veterans are good hires because of the skills and discipline they have acquired in the military.

“At Waste Management, one out of every 12 hires is a veteran.  They have the work ethic and the background that we look for,” she said. “Mechanical backgrounds … they have worked with heavy equipment in the military and that is appropriate to what we do.”

Akel said veterans interested in a position with Waste Management can contact wreel@wm.com

Daniel Merchant of SMA Communications said his company is currently looking for administrative type skills for its two open positions and veterans are very trainable.

“We’re here to support the vets and we’re trying to get jobs for the vets,” he said.
“Once they have the basic fundamentals that the military provides, the structure, discipline, we can teach them everything.”

Milton Roman, a human resources specialist for the VA Medical Center in West Palm Beach, said in addition to the 12 open vacancies at the hospital, he wants veterans to know what services are available to them.