More than 1,000 veterans turn out for job fair

 

Augusta veteran Sylvester Brown spent 36 years traveling the globe, making sure Army vehicles and machines in Germany, France and Haiti were in top working order.

But in the six months since his retirement, telling potential employers that he managed million of dollars of weapon systems has not helped him find the mechanic job he is seeking.

As government agencies and nonprofit organizations work to bring down the high unemployment rate for recent veterans, they are finding that the
No. 1 obstacle to hiring soldiers who only have a high school diploma is matching military skills with civilian work.

With that in mind, the Georgia Department of Labor brought scores of business recruiters to Fort Gordon on Tuesday for the post’s largest hiring fair of the year, and more than 1,000 veterans turned up looking for work.

Among the 60 companies in attendance were IBM, Comcast and Southern Co., which was looking for as many as 10 truck operators to build and manage the energy provider’s vast network of transmission lines. The job was a near perfect fit for Brown’s qualifications.

“With 35 percent of the utility industry’s workforce set to retire in the next five years, we want to connect with our veterans and guide them into rewarding energy careers,” said Southern Co. recruiter Linda Sykes. “They are best able to fill the gap we are facing.”

Brown said he has the organizational skills to be an effective and efficient worker, both as a mechanic and a customer service representative, and hopes he gets an interview.

“I have been to a lot of cool places, but I love Augusta and want to stay here,” Brown said.

Brown’s goal was a popular mission Tuesday, as hundreds of men and women traded headsets for résumés and camouflage for business suits.

“Soldiers are well-rounded and adaptable,” said Sgt. 1st Class Michael Welker, a telecommunications chief at Fort Gordon. “We can pretty much do any task given to us.”

After 24 years of service, Welker is retiring in September. He said he found a few management positions that piqued his interest.

Automation Technologies had a large audience at its booth, as the company searched for 15 people to work as Web developers, software engineers and cyber analysts from Washington, D.C., to Texas.

A 20-year military spouse, Natoshia Canzater, senior recruiter for Automation Technologies, said the career expo was an “extremely valuable” tool.

“Military veterans are coming out of the armed forces already with government clearance, which some of our positions require,” she said. “This is a nice way for them to cross over into the civilian world right away and use the skills they have acquired.”

James Abron Jr., manager of the event for the Georgia De­partment of Labor, said that the state plans to hold
at least one more fair this year in the region, this time at the Georgia Re­gents Uni­versity Athletics Com­plex in July.

“We realize soldiers may not stay in the Augusta area or in Georgia for that matter,” Abron said. “But wherever they go, we want them to have jobs.”

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