Paychecks for Patriots job fair held in Gainesville
Published: Friday, May 10, 2013 at 4:33 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, May 10, 2013 at 4:33 p.m.
Jon Altenburger has been looking for a job in information technology since he was laid off as an engineering and IT manager for the Spartan ERV fire truck manufacturer in Ocala in June 2012.
The 40-year-old Gainesville man said he had a "few bites" from employers manning tables at a job fair for military veterans Friday at the Freedom Community Center at Kanapaha Veterans Memorial Park in southwest Gainesville.
"Hopefully there's a few that starred my name so something comes out of that and I get some calls," said Altenburger, who was a medic in the Army and National Guard.
The event was one of 10 Paychecks for Patriots job fairs held by regional workforce boards throughout Florida on Friday. About 70 veterans and family members attended the Gainesville job fair within the first hour and a half.
Dollar General coordinated the events with the state and military organizations after conducting a similar statewide event in Tennessee in October 2012.
The company is trying to hire 10,000 people this month nationwide to meet expansion plans that include 35 new stores in Florida this year.
Locally, Dollar General has store and warehouse jobs, said Donna Myers, senior human resources manager at the Alachua distribution center, one of 17 employers at the job fair.
She said many in the company's leadership are veterans.
Randy Stout of the Florida Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve was promoting the Heros 2 Hired program at h2h.jobs, which lists job openings and helps veterans translate their military skills into civilian jobs.
"Most people would rather hire a vet than hire someone who has not had any military experience because a vet they know is going to show up on time, is going to show up sober. They're going to be there every day. They're trustworthy. They're loyal. All of these other good things that they're looking for," Stout said.
Veterans who have returned to civilian life in general have an easier time finding work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for veterans was 6.2 percent in April compared with 6.9 percent for nonveterans. However, veterans who served after September 2011 have a 7.5 percent jobless rate.
Phyllis Marty, senior program manager for FloridaWorks, said Florida has 250,000 veterans who were deployed to Iran or Afghanistan.
The workforce agency for Alachua and Bradford counties gives priority services to veterans needing job services or referrals to other service organizations, she said.
FloridaWorks Executive Director Kim Tesch-Vaught said a lot of veterans face challenges transitioning to work because industries don't recognize military certifications.
The agency helps put veterans on a "streamlined path" to getting short-term certifications through Santa Fe College to make that transition faster.
"They've served the country, and our job is to make sure there's jobs to come back to and that they have the training and the certifications. And if they don't, we get them plugged in to how they can get that here locally," she said.
City, county and state law enforcement manned tables at the job fair.
Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Michael Elder said the agency is recruiting statewide since many people are planning to retire in the next two years.
He said the FHP has a bootcamp for new recruits that includes "marching, formation, yes sir, no sir, and we love the military because they're already regimented in that respect.
"Nine times out of 10, if they have a clean background, more than likely we'll hire them," Elder said.
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