Vets, employers connect at Ellmers job fair

Aug. 13, 2014 @ 06:46 PM

Veterans of the armed services leave the military with specific practical and technical training, respect for authority and a work ethic second to none demanded by the profession. But when they leave, they need a way to make a living.

U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-Harnett) wants to provide those veterans an opportunity to enter the private sector.

Ellmers hosted the third annual “Recruit-a-Vet" job fair Wednesday morning at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center for the purpose of reaching out to veterans in need of work. The fair returned to Lee County after being held in Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville in 2013 after 2012's inaugural event was held in Sanford.

“I think businesses in North Carolina and across the country are seeing how important it is that they're putting together themselves a package of programs specifically geared towards hiring veterans because they realize what an asset our veterans are for them,” Ellmers said, “whether it is because of the training that they received in the military, or it's their commitment and dedication. They know that they're going to be getting a hardworking employee, and then the veteran [himself or herself] has as avenue to follow as well.”

About 35 vendors set up at the Civic Center. Companies such as Caterpillar, Aaron’s, Sanford Contractors and Davenport had booths for veterans to inquire about jobs, sign up for email lists and talk to potential employers.

Bob Cogswell, the director of human resources at Campbell University, cited the university's closeness to Fort Bragg as one of the main reasons he was there.

“We look to employ veterans in our workforce,” Cogswell said. “They've been in a pretty tough work environment, so they know good discipline, good values. That's a good worker.”

Terri Blumatte, the human resources development coordinator at Central Carolina Community College, cited two purposes for her attendance. Her department, she said, mainly seeks to help the unemployed, but she also was there as an employer.

“My department primarily takes care of the unemployed and the underemployed here in the county,” she said. “I'm also here because I need two instructors.”

Other organizations such as Sanford Jobseekers and JobLink Career Center were represented to help veterans with the job-search process. The trucking industry also was represented, including the Sanford-based Cargo Control USA and the Roadmaster Driving School in Dunn.

Like Cogswell, Blumatte recognized the value of veterans as employees.

“The vets are the best people to employ because they can take an instruction and see it from beginning to end,” she said. “They're on time, and I'd prefer a vet.”

In light of the U.S. Veterans Affairs Department's highly publicized struggles in providing timely care, Ellmers said it was important to show veterans that the government respects and appreciates them.

“Going to Congress, we've made that promise that we're going to do everything we can for our veterans, and this is just another way that we can take part in that,” she said. “We're seeing how, in many situations, we have let our veterans down. We've got to do a better job.”

Ellmers mingled during her time at the Civic Center, meeting veterans and their prospective employers. She said she was encouraged by what she saw and heard.

“I am seeing a real motivation and just a positive attitude that everyone has," she said. "What we'll do from here on out is make sure that we can still be connecting with people, even if they couldn't come out today.”