Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story misspelled Serah Tyler's name.
Jimmy Evangelista was hired by the Georgia Department of Corrections on July 30 during a Fort Gordon job fair, finished his basic officer training last week and will soon report to Augusta State Medical Prison to start his new career.
Though Evangelista hailed the hiring process as an exciting way for him and 32 other military veterans to go quickly from jobless to fully employed, experts say the odds of finding work through a career fair usually are not that great.
Ted Daywalt, president of Atlanta-based VetJobs.com – one of the largest Internet job sites for veterans – said studies show that only 3 to 5 percent of job-seekers find work through career fairs and that a large number of employers only attend such expos because they are required by federal law.
Those numbers do not bode well for Augusta, which in the past six months has hosted a total of 218 employers and more than 4,100 job-seekers, mostly veterans, at five career fairs in Richmond, Columbia and Aiken counties.
“The main reason why you have job fairs is companies have to comply with a U.S. Department of Labor regulation called local outreach,” Daywalt said. “To be real honest, if the federal agency did away with the rule, probably half of the career fairs out there would just dry up and disappear.”
According to the Affirmative Action executive order 11246 passed in 2002, government contractors and employers must make “good faith” efforts to expand outreach, recruitment and training of qualified minorities, women, persons with disabilities and veterans.
Such procedures, the rule stated, should be incorporated into the company’s written personnel policies and be implemented, kept on file and updated annually. However, Laura NcGinnis, spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Labor, said employers have some flexibility in developing a plan that works for their business.
“One way contractors can show progress towards the outreach and recruitment aspects of their affirmative action obligations is to participate in job fairs; but job fairs are not explicitly proscribed by the department’s regulations,” she said.
The outreach law is followed by the Southern Co.’s ongoing recruitment efforts, which include annual participation in more than 30 military recruitment events, such as military base job fairs, service academy career conferences and “Hiring Our Heroes” events, among others, said Jeannice Hall, the head of Corporate Communications.
More than two months before Evangelista was hired, Southern Co. recruiters attended a Fort Gordon job fair to look for as many as 10 truck operators to build and manage the energy provider’s vast network of transmission lines.
Hall wouldn’t say whether the organization met its quota, but noted that veterans currently account for 11 percent of the company’s 26,000 employees – and 12 percent of new hires in 2013 are veterans, guardsmen or reservists.
“As an active proponent of veteran recruitment and development, Southern Co. recognizes the immense value of offering military personnel the opportunities to successfully transition to civilian careers,” Hall said. “Veterans are a natural fit for Southern Co. because the cultures of the military and the utility industry are very similar – both exemplify dedication, commitment to safety, teamwork and excellence in all they do.”
Some recruiters find it hard to fill job openings.
Capt. Nick Gallam, of the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office, attended a veterans fair hosted by U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., at Aiken Technical College on April 22 in search of 15 people to work on the department’s road patrol and in its detention center.
“Unfortunately, we did not have any luck in hiring anyone … as a result from the job fair,” Gallam wrote in an e-mail. “We really did not have that many folks stop by our booth.”
Serah Tyler, the human resources administrator of Rural Sourcing Inc., was also at the Aiken fair and said her company was only able to fill about five of the 15 entry-level and senior developer openings she had available at her business’ Augusta Enterprise Mill location.
Tyler said Rural Sourcing, which provides staffing alternatives for companies that are considering sending jobs overseas, was able to hire more than 25 people she met in the local community.
Daywalt said studies show more than 90 percent of jobs are found through networking and Internet sites, such as Vetjobs.com, which as of Tuesday, listed more than 130 jobs in Augusta or Richmond County.
Though many job fairs feature company representatives who are simply there to point candidates to online applications, Daywalt said career expos provide valuable interview practice and networking opportunities.
Tyler, who said career fairs hold a lot of weight in Rural Sourcing’s recruitment plan, agreed.
“Meeting people in person is much different than seeing their names on a resume,” she said. “It literally puts a face to that name and allows an opportunity to communicate in ways you’re not able to otherwise.”