Job fair planned in Alexandria, La., for soldiers returning to civilian life

Fort Polk is holding a job fair Thursday for soldiers who are moving from military to civilian life, according to an AP report. It’s 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday at the England Airpark Army Processing Facility in Alexandria.

Ninety-one employers from around the state and region have signed up, said Deborah Randolph, president of the Central Louisiana Chamber of Commerce. She said organizers expect more than 500 veterans and their spouses from Fort Polk, Barksdale Air Force Base and other locations. For instance, Union Tank Car, a national company with a manufacturing plant in Alexandria, is looking for welders. 

Officials say 392 job-seekers and 27 employers have signed up for a similar job fair Feb. 2 in the Superdome.

“Other employers that will be at the job fair include hospitals, Central Louisiana Electric Company, ConAgra foods, banks, The Shaw Group (engineering), Ballinger Shipyards and Edward Jones Investments (finances) just to a name a few,” said Randolph. “Today, more than ever, companies want and need to hire the right employee with the ‘right’ stuff. Military veterans and their spouses comprise a pool of skilled talent that can benefit any company or organization in today’s market.”

Randolph says the United States Chamber of Commerce is partnering with local chambers in all 50 states to sponsor hiring soldiers leaving the military because veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are more likely than the general population to be unemployed.

Randolph said employers want to help.

“In our area especially, there is a long history of supporting the military. Many of those who are running businesses in this area grew up around the military having Fort Polk in the region,” Randolph said. “They recognize the service that these men and women have provided to our country.

“The bottom line is they are looking for good employees and believe that within this pool of people they can hire some great folks. It’s a win-win situation for us to keep them in Louisiana and fill open positions.”

Randolph said since the Army Processing Facility has 52,000 square feet, they used the extra space for workshops to give veterans and spouses coaching and tools to help them get jobs, and for coaching and contacts to help veterans who want to start their own small businesses.

The Louisiana Workforce Commission’s mobile unit will have people and computers to help write resumes — or suggest improvements in already written resumes. “We’ll also have extra computers and wireless capabilities in case Soldiers need to fill out applications online for companies on site,” Randolph said.

In this economy, soldiers shouldn’t pass up the chance to talk to employers, even if they plan to stay in uniform a while longer, said Bobbi Stark, Fort Polk’s director of human resources.

“Soldiers don’t necessarily know what they want to do once they leave the military. I think the magnitude and scope of the fair provides a mix of employers to help them make up their minds. Even if Soldiers aren’t ready to get out of the military and get a job now, they might be within a year.

“This is a good opportunity for them to meet different employers, find out what’s available and learn what it’s going to take from them to get a job,” said Stark.

The U.S. Chamber launched the Hiring our Heroes program in March 2011 as a yearlong nationwide effort to help veterans and their spouses find meaningful employment. Since its launch, the U.S. Chamber and local chambers have hosted 66 hiring fairs in 37 states and have 34 more scheduled before the end of March 2012.

The fairs have brought more than 55,000 veterans and military spouses together with more than 2,500 employers. More than 3,400 veterans spouses and 50 soldiers injured in combat have found jobs.


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