HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — Twenty-eight-year-old Daniel McCormick spent six years in the Air Force, with deployments in Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait during his service.
Now he’s looking for post-military employment, preferably in the acquisitions and contract management field.
“It’s been tough,” said McCormick, a resident of Lincoln County, Tenn., who’s managing a cattle farm as he finishes up an associate’s degree in business from Calhoun Community College before pursuing a bachelor’s degree at Athens State University.
“It seems like it’s getting better because I’ve had a few calls back,” said McCormick as he made the rounds at a Hiring Our Heroes job fair this morning at the Huntsville Marriott. The hallways and conference rooms were lined with tables set up by nearly 70 employers that were taking resumes and handing out their brochures.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s National Chamber Foundation launched Hiring Our Heroes, an initiative to help veterans and military spouses find jobs, in March 2011 The foundation works with a network of 1,600 state and local chambers and other partners in the public, private and non-profit sectors in the effort.
“This has been a good opportunity to meet face to face” with company representatives, said McCormick, “and be able to hand a resume to someone.”
Ernie Lombardi, the Southeastern Region associate with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, was pleased with the response to the hiring fair. Sixty-seven employers had pre-registered for the event, and 256 job seekers had pre-registered, he said.
“We want these men and women hired, that’s the bottom line” of the campaign, he said. Hiring veterans and military spouses “is not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do. They bring so much to the table.”
Arthur King, 47, of Huntsville, who served with the Army for nearly eight years, is job hunting after recently being laid off from a car dealership.
“I’m looking to get into an apprenticeship program,” said King, who was close to getting an engineering degree and received a degree in communication arts. “I think I need some retraining. I want to put myself in position to build a career I can stay in.”
The Huntsville job fair was one of four Hiring Our Heroes events nationwide scheduled today.
The goal is to host 400 job fairs in the program’s second year, said Bryan Goettel, director of communications for Hiring Our Heroes. “We’re well on pace to meet that goal.
“To date, we’ve had more than 10,400 veterans and military spouses hired.”
The Hiring Our Heroes quarterly report states that the national unemployment rates last year were 12.1 percent for post-9/11 veterans, 29.1 percent for veterans under 25 years old and 26 percent for military spouses – with 1 million more service members and military families preparing to re-enter the civilian workforce over the next five years.
“Having this Hiring Our Heroes event in Huntsville is a tremendous win/win/win,” said Will Webb, the co-founder and president of Still Serving Veterans in Huntsville. “It is a win for our hero veterans because meaningful new careers are critical as they transition into post-military lives. It will also be a win for our community and employers who will benefit from the expertise, talent and values such as leadership, loyalty, teamwork, judgment and mission accomplishments that veterans bring to companies’ bottom lines.”
The event will also give U.S. Chamber of Commerce personnel a chance to visit this “patriotic, veteran-friendly community,” Webb said.
The job fair was also a chance for businesses to recruit workers.
Spring Lake, N.C.-based RLM Communications has plans to open a Huntsville office here late this year or early next year.
So the timing of the job fair was perfect for Van Milne, the director of the Huntsville office.
“We’ll have a presence here” as of Oct. 1, he said. “We’re looking for all kinds of people – IT, information assurance, cyber security (professionals), trainers, engineers, logisticians.”
Decatur residents Michael Cole, 26, and Andrea Malone, 25, also came to the fair, looking for some job leads.
“It’s hard to find a job,” said Cole, who was with the 699th Maintenance Company in Fort Irwin, Calif., and served in the Army for three years. He had just stopped by a Huntsville Police Department booth with Malone, who was with the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade in Fort Hood, Texas, and served for five years in the Army. Malone was looking for job openings in human resources, the field in which she previously worked.
“In Decatur, nobody’s hiring really,” said Cole. “I’m here looking for anything.”