With the U.S. Army shrinking due to budget cuts and the wrapping up of the war in Iraq, more and more soldiers are having to make the transition into civilian life – and a tough job market.
On Tuesday, the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce, Fort Jackson and others will hold a job fair at the post’s Solomon Center for all service members.
The Hiring Our Heroes Job Fair is designed to help active duty, Reserve and National Guard service members, retirees, veterans, Department of the Defense civilians and their families gain access to employers interested in their skills and experience.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rate of unemployment for military veterans increased to 13.3 percent in June 2011, from 11.5 percent a year earlier – well above the state or national jobless rates. These numbers could increase as service members return from Iraq and Afghanistan during the next five years.
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Carolyn Andrews, transition services manager for Fort Jackson, said 85 employers and 15 service providers will attend the job fair – from manufacturers to high-tech companies, real estate firms to colleges and universities.
“We have all sorts of job providers, including private, public, contracting and nonprofit organizations,” she said.
Chamber chief executive Ike McLeese said the event was not tailored to a narrow number of occupations.
“We just put the word out there for anybody,” he said. “It runs the gamut.”
Employers were invited only if they had immediate job openings, Andrews said.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched its Hiring our Heroes program in early 2011, a yearlong nationwide effort to help veterans and their spouses find employment. While the main focus of the effort is to conduct 100 hiring fairs for veterans and military spouses in local communities across the country, it has also created strategic partnerships to deal with specific populations of veterans and their unique challenges in three other areas: a Wounded Warrior Transition Assistance Program, a Student Veterans Internship and Employment Program, and a Women Veterans and Military Spouses program.
About 500 soldiers and other service members already have registered for Tuesday’s job fair. Andrews encouraged participants to pre-register online at greatjob.net.