The veterans job fair in Middletown Monday drew 40 employers and nearly 100 job seekers to Memorial Hall at the Volunteer Hose Company on Green Street. The event was hosted by Delaware's Congressional Delegation of Senators Tom Carper, Chris Coons and Rep. John Carney.
"It was helpful to talk to the veterans who came out today about their job prospects and what we can do to help them find work," said Sen. Carper, a member of the Senate Veterans Job Caucus. "As a 23-year veteran of the Navy, I know firsthand the sacrifices they made defending our nation. We have a responsibility to ensure that our returning heroes have the resources and opportunities to support themselves and their families when they come home."
In addition to employers, five veterans resource groups had tables with information, while the Division of Employment and Training sponsored workshops on how to build a resumé.
Army National Guard Sgt. Jeffe Rodriguez of New Castle was looking for a civilian job after six-and-a-half years of service.
"I'm nearing the end of my contract term with the Army and I'm looking to start my career outside the Army," he said.
How did the job fair help him?
"When you come here, you get that point of contact. Most of the time, you still end up going to the internet to fill out an application, but at least you've met someone from that company," he said. "It's a little better than a generic search on the internet because you can get more specific information about what's available in the company and in what locations. There are also some smaller companies here that you normally wouldn't find online unless you know their names and go right to their homepage, so this is good to be able to see all the places that are available."
Barbara Doles recently retired as a master sergeant after 20 years in the Army Reserve, and she was hoping the job fair could help her get started with the next stage of her career.
"It certainly makes it easier because you have access to so many employers in one place," Doles said. "You can network and meet people. There is a lot of information from different state agencies about how they can help you find jobs, so I was glad to hear about those resources."
One advantage of the job fair was being able to see lists of open positions to help narrow her search.
"It's definitely a worthwhile experience," she said. "When I fill out an application online, it's impersonal. You don't get to see a person or talk to a person. This gives you an advantage because you've met them face to face, and you have someone to contact now to follow up with your search."
Page 2 of 2 - Barbara Wong, a recruiter for BNY Mellon investment bank, explained why her company was interested in the job fair: "We've definitely found that veterans make excellent employees," she said.
Some of the qualities veterans bring to the job include loyalty, responsibility, and dependability, she said.
Job fairs like the Middletown event help because "it's nice to see people face to face and establish a connection by speaking to them directly," she said. "Seeing and talking to someone in person, it's easier to make a judgment and narrow the list of potential candidates for a particular position."
Jason Newman, area supervisor for security company G4S Secure Solutions, said job fairs help his company recruit the best employees.
"It gets us out in public so people get to know us and potential employees get to know us," he said. "We can answer questions and give more specific information about the jobs they're applying for, much more so than we can do online."
Newman also said meeting job seekers in person is a big advantage.
"I'm a face-to-face person," said Newman. "Instead of just doing an internet search, l like coming to job fairs like this where you can get that face-to-face interaction. I like doing recruiting and telling people about our company, and this is a great way to do that."
Dr. Ronald Sarg, Commissioner of the Delaware Commission of Veterans Affairs, said Monday's event was a great opportunity for veterans to have plenty of time to talk to potential employers.
"We've had events that are so crowded you didn't get to do that. Here, you can take five minutes and talk to someone from a company or agency," he said.
Sarg said most of the jobs being offered are entry-level or mid-level positions.
"These are for veterans who are looking for jobs after their enlisted time is up. There's been a lot of downsizing in our military and a lot of veterans are looking for jobs. Of course, a lot of people outside the military are also looking for jobs, so it's tough out there. That's why these job fairs are important," he said. "It also gives the veterans the opportunity to ask employers about the quality of life in the area, what the schools are like, what amenities they have, because a lot of these veterans have families and if they're going to move to an area, that's important."
The Commission on Veterans Affairs offers a free website where employers looking to hire can link their company to the Veterans Affairs website and include info about the area where the job opportunity is. It's called the Veterans Services Director at www.delaware.gov/vsd.