- Written by Megan Joyce Megan Joyce
It’s been four years since Seven Valleys resident Carl Jones was discharged from the U.S. Army. Recently married and with a newly blended family to support, Jones attended April’s Veterans’ Expo & Job Fair in York in search of new opportunities.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the jobless rate for veterans declined from 4.3 to 3.7 percent in 2017, but many employed veterans still struggle to obtain positions commensurate with their experience and skill levels.
“It’s hard enough to find a job out here,” Jones said. “A lot of our skills as veterans — some transfer over, but for some of us, it’s really hard to get a job, something that’s competitive.”
Military personnel of all ages, veterans, and their families attended the Veterans’ Expo & Job Fair at the Wyndham Garden Hotel, York. The day was a two-for-one event presented by OLP Events; admission was free to the public.
The Korean War Veteran Color Guard began the opening ceremony by displaying the colors, honoring each branch of the military individually.
“Service members who fight to protect our freedoms abroad shouldn’t have to come home and fight for jobs,” Donna Anderson, president of OLP Events, said during her opening remarks.
The Veterans’ Expo connected active and retired military members with the benefits and resources available to them through local businesses and organizations.
Visitors had access to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Veterans Outreach Van at the Expo. The mobile resource offers veterans and their families information on service-connected disability compensation, vocational rehabilitation, pensions, VA healthcare, burial and education benefits, and more.
Guests could also take advantage of free haircuts offered by students from Barber Styling Institute.
“I’m a vet, and I wanted to see what’s being done for vets because I’m involved in the community,” Joe Cervenak, Army veteran from East York, said. “And while I might not have a specific need, I can turn and redirect somebody [who does].”
As a mentor with SCORE, a nonprofit organization offering free mentoring services to small businesses, Cervenak regularly meets face-to-face with current and prospective business owners, some of whom are veterans seeking assistance and resource information.
“I think some of it is a better-kept secret, and we need to promulgate it and get the word out,” he added.
At the Job Fair, transitioning and former military personnel met face-to-face with employers to discuss available positions.
Company representatives were looking to fill openings in sales, labor, management, tech, medical services, transportation, clerical, manufacturing, engineering, construction, retail, financial services, and other fields.
Judy Long, of Dover, is a Vietnam-era veteran who served as a dental assistant in the U.S. Navy for six years.
“I’m currently unemployed, as of the beginning of March, so I’m looking,” Long said. “I’m trying to stay in the admin field if I can, but if not, then I’ll try to find something [else]. I might just want a change and to explore my options.”
Also at the Job Fair, a Resource Center provided assistance with translating military careers to civilian opportunities.
There, Vincent D. Jones Jr. from York County CareerLink offered advice on resume writing, and George Tapia, with the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Eastern Pennsylvania District Office, discussed the SBA program and resources for veteran-owned small businesses.
George Dillman, Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities, offered insight into veterans’ financial services, while Justin Leader from Benefit Design Solutions provided employment counseling.
Christiana Taylor, lead recruiter for Flagger Force, said the company is actively hiring and has been partnering with local veterans communities. Several veterans and retired police officers and firefighters occupy supervisory positions within the company.
“We realize all the skills and the backgrounds that veterans have that would be great for these positions,” Taylor said. “It’s a position that, whether they’ve retired, or are starting in a new direction, or need a career change — whatever point of life they’re in, it’s a good fit.”
The Veterans Expo & Job Fair will return to Berks County May 30 at the Crowne Plaza Reading Hotel in Wyomissing.
The event will also return to the Capital Region Aug. 28 at the Radisson Hotel Harrisburg in Camp Hill and to Lancaster County Nov. 1 at Farm and Home Center in Lancaster.
For more information, call (717) 285-1350 or visit www.veteransexpo.com.