His tie neatly knotted and his shoes polished, Joe Miles looked into a crowd of about 200 veterans at the Savannah Rapids Pavilion in Columbia County.
They were all there Tuesday for a veterans’ job fair, and while many were young, Miles is 45.
He left the military in 2010 after spending 18 years as an Army recruiter and another four as a Marine Corps pharmacy tech.
Since then, he has attended several career expos and e-mailed countless résumés, but he has yet to land a permanent job.
“I’m still looking for a long-term position I can ride into retirement and I’m hoping it’s here today,” Miles said.
Ernie Lombardi, regional associate for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, said Miles’ chances were pretty good.
The organization had 60 employers on hand for its Hiring Our Heroes expo, a nationwide initiative the foundation launched in March 2011 to help veterans and military spouses. In the past two years, the organization has helped 20,000 veterans find jobs with more than 1,200 participating companies in as many as 600 job fairs.
“Instead of attaching a résumé to an e-mail, our veterans are having one-on-one conversations with employers on the skills they acquired in the military and how that can help companies succeed,” Lombardi said. “That’s what makes this work.”
Miles said he is hopeful he will receive a call back this week to become a human resources administrator or an inspector of business equipment and products.
Augustus Bostick used the job fair to help him rediscover his dream of becoming a police officer.
The first conversation the Army veteran had Tuesday was with the Montgomery, Ala., Police Department.
“I always wanted to be a police officer,” Bostick said. “They help clean up the streets and make sure the community is safe.”
Cpl. Maurice Johnson, of the Montgomery Police, said the department is in the midst of a regional hiring sweep. He said department representatives have stopped in 10 cities across the Southeast and have found that veterans are willing to move for a quality job.
“First, many veterans look at the pay,” he said. “Then, for many, their choice primarily deals with employers who have a strong sense of discipline that matches their (military) lifestyle, each of which translates well into law enforcement.”
Margie McClain, a staffing specialist for MAU Workforce Solutions, based in Augusta, said she found dozens of applicants who were willing to work locally in Aiken and Augusta. However, she said there were some who expressed interest in temporary and direct-hire positions in Chattanooga, Tenn., and Greenville and Charleston, S.C.
“This region has a lot of respect for the military, and if we can be a part of that through providing veterans jobs, that’s something we want to do,” she said. “Taking their skills and world views and being able to bring their cultural experience and attitude to our area is our main goal.”
Three companies committed to hiring veterans:
Combined Insurance: To help reduce the military veteran unemployment rate, Combined Insurance has committed to hiring 1,000 veterans. To help reach that goal, the company is regularly participating in the Hiring Our Heroes program’s hundreds of nationwide job fairs, which are scheduled this year through local chambers of commerce, military veteran organizations and other employment support groups.
Wal-Mart: Earlier this year Wal-Mart pledged to offer a job to any honorably discharged veteran within his or her first 12 months off active duty. Since the company launched its Welcome Home Commitment, on Memorial Day 2013, more than 20,000 veterans have been hired.
Orkin: Atlanta-based pest control company said its goal is to hire 1,000 military veterans over the next five years. This commitment is part of the White House and First Lady’s Joining Forces initiative, which ensures veterans and military families have the opportunities, resources and recognition they have earned through serving the country.