“You always have to act like a free agent, versatile to whatever opportunity may present itself,” said Lloyd, as he straightened his tie and entered the Fort Gordon Army Reserve Center with a portfolio of freshly printed resumes.
Lloyd, who holds a masters degree in organizational management, was one of thousands of veteran and civilian job seekers who tested free agency Thursday in the state’s workforce during the Georgia Department of Labor’s Paychecks for Patriots Career Expo.
Though the event was open to all job seekers, state Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said the expos, also held in Atlanta, Columbus, Savannah and Warner Robins, were mainly focused on his initiative to address employment needs and challenges facing as many as 80,000 veterans expected to return to Georgia in the next four years.
Butler said his staff teamed up with the Tennessee Department of Labor, the Georgia National Guard, the Technology Association of Georgia, the U.S Economic Development Administration, the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency, and corporate host Dollar General to make the goal a reality.
“We owe it to them to do everything we can to assist them,” Butler said. “We’re committed to giving them the highest level of dedication.”
The 42 employers at the Fort Gordon expo said the commitment was not hard to fulfill.
“The level of degree of veterans is impressive,” said Darrell Carson, a retired Marine and military business development representative for the Art Institutes.
After attending a veteran job fair at Fort Knox in Kentucky on Wednesday, Carson said he has learned several new terms in less than 24 hours.
“MPA?” Carson asked, as he spoke with Fort Gordon Sgt. 1st Class Edward Bryant.
“Masters of Public Administration,” Bryant said of the degree he hopes to have in the next four months. “It covers the government side of business administration.”
Carson and Bryant agreed veteran job fairs are superior to civilian ones.
Carson said employers tend to get older and more qualified applicants who have more than a high school diploma or GED. Bryant said job seekers are provided with a broader spectrum of fields from which to choose and salary that’s more competitive than introductory pay grades.
“I want a job that pays higher than entry,” Bryant said. “Something with growth potential.”
Bob Ravener, the executive vice president for Dollar General, the lead corporate sponsor for Paychecks for Patriots in both Georgia and Tennessee, said his company strived to bring national corporations, such as Auto Zone, Bank of America, McDonald’s and Wal-Mart, to the expos, on the condition they were willing to take applications, conduct interviews and connect with veterans.
The Technology Association of Georgia (TAG) said it worked “diligently” to recruit technology companies across the state to expand the number of participating employers for service members and veterans.
“At a time when soldiers are looking for their next destination, we want to make sure they know all that Georgia has to offer in the way of opportunities and success,” said Tino Mantella, the TAG president.
While Bryant said he would be willing to relocate for sales and adjunct professor positions offered Thursday at the Art Institute of Atlanta and Kansas City, the Georgia Department of Labor said they understood the desire of some Fort Gordon soldiers to stay local.
That’s why they invited Van Langham, human resources officer at Two State Roofing in Thomson.
In the first 90 minutes, Langham said he had landed a job for a Fort Gordon soldier to become a welder for his company.
“We actively try to recruit from the military,” Langham said. “They deserve something for the service they provided our country.”
“Plus,” he said. “They have very disciplined work ethics.”