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Veterans’ Job Fair draws hundreds

Arlington Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1561 Community Affairs Chair Bill Morse chats with Mike Schanche, former command master chief of Naval Station Everett, at the Snohomish County Regional Veterans’ Job and Resource Fair on April 3. - Kirk Boxleitner
Arlington Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1561 Community Affairs Chair Bill Morse chats with Mike Schanche, former command master chief of Naval Station Everett, at the Snohomish County Regional Veterans’ Job and Resource Fair on April 3.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

MARYSVILLE — The Snohomish County Regional Veterans’ Job and Resource Fair was unable to return to the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Marysville on Thursday, April 3, due to the ongoing response to the Oso mudslide, so the Totem Recreation Center at the Naval Support Complex, just a block east, played host to the event’s 50 on-site employers and hundreds of visitors.

By the halfway point of the four-hour fair at noon, close to 200 area veterans and their dependents had already circulated through, ready to pursue careers, although a number of representatives manning various groups’ booths shared the perception that turnout was slightly lighter this year.

Arlington Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1561 Senior Vice Cmdr. Nathaniel Farmer and Community Affairs Chair Adjutant Bill Morse greeted Mike Schanche, former command master chief of Naval Station Everett, who has worked in U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen’s office since his retirement.

“We’ve got some prospective new members coming in soon,” Farmer said. “They’re nearing the end of their careers and are looking to retire.”

Morse has repeatedly noted the recession’s disproportionate impact on veterans, citing a higher rate of unemployment among vets than civilians, by a margin of nearly 6 percent as recently as two years ago.

“A lot of folks are hurting,” Morse said. “They’re looking for anything that can get them on their feet again.”

John Natterstad, of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs’ “Hero 2 Hired” program, sees this as a solvable problem, and cited Akeem Sewell, who left the Army last December, as but one example.

“I joined the Army when I was 18,” said Sewell, who arrived at the fair dressed sharp, with copies of his resume in hand and his equally smartly tailored wife Lavonne by his side. “I’ve been to Iraq twice, but I’ve never really been in the job market, since I enlisted so young, right out of high school, so for me, it’s a matter of getting used to everything.”

Natterstad pointed out to Sewell how many of the abilities he’s honed in the military are valuable in the civilian sector.

“You’re sitting on assets and you don’t even know it,” Natterstad said. “You have to look at how the things you’ve done translate over into a civilian career, even if it means you won’t be doing the exact same type of job. You think about these kids working the engines of aircraft carriers, and they’re building expertise on nuclear physics. Amazon recently hired about 10,000 senior non-commissioned officers, because who knows logistics better than NCOs?”

To that end, Natterstad touted H2H as a comprehensive, multi-faceted program that utilizes an electronic job and career web platform, mobile applications and Facebook integration, and virtual and physical career fairs to address the unique employment challenges facing members of the National Guard and Reserve in particular. The H2H jobs website is specifically designed to connect them with military-friendly civilian employers that have made a stated commitment to hire veterans. It also provides service members assistance with resume building and translating their military skills to civilian job qualifications.

“It can be tough to make do while you’re trying to find a civilian job,” said Natterstad, who also pointed out the difference between civilian and military resumes. “Civilian recruiters will look at a resume for maybe 15-30 seconds, so military members need to write their resumes more concisely than they’re used to.”

Patterson explained that H2H even offers resume critiquing services via email, since employers such as Boeing “don’t even let a human being look at a resume until a machine has scanned it twice, looking for the right words.”

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