- Written by Megan Joyce Megan Joyce
As a mentor to other vets, Army veteran Chuck Tyler attended the recent Veterans’ Expo & Job Fair at the Farm and Home Center in Lancaster not only for himself, but also to scout opportunities for other transitioning veterans.
“It’s always interesting to see opportunities that civilian organizations offer to veterans like myself,” Tyler, of Lancaster, said.
“When I come to functions like this, I’m looking to see how veteran-friendly they really are. Do I walk by booths and nobody reaches out, or do I walk by and someone is right there with an opportunity to engage?”
More than 90 local exhibitors composed the fifth-annual event, which had a goal of connecting current military personnel of all ages, veterans, and their families with benefits information and job opportunities.
Admission was free to the public.
The day’s opening ceremony began with comments from Donna Anderson, president of On-Line Publishers and host of the Veterans’ Expo & Job Fair.
“Each year, many veterans attend our events seeking employment opportunities and also to learn about their benefits and how to access those benefits,” Anderson said.
“The job fair presents a great opportunity for individuals to explore the potentials, whether they are unemployed or underemployed,” she continued. “Service members who fight for our freedom abroad shouldn’t have to fight for jobs when they come home.”
Peggy Keller, 2011 PA State Senior Idol and 2017 Ms. Pennsylvania Senior America, performed the national anthem; the Red Rose Veterans Honor Guard recognized each branch of service; and Catherine Courreges spoke on the Quilts of Valor program, which honors veterans with custom-made quilts.
Alison Ault, human resource generalist with Wenger Feeds, said the company makes an effort to recognize the veterans already employed in their ranks and to exhibit at as many Veterans’ Expo & Job Fair locations as possible.
“We try to attend them all when we can,” Ault said. “It’s not just about recruiting people, but it’s more about showing that we do care about our community and to show our acknowledgement for vets — and I think that’s important, especially for a community like Lancaster.”
During the event, attendees spoke with veterans’ organizations, such as the Pennsylvania State Headquarters VFW and Disabled American Veterans, as well as representatives from educational institutions, veterans’ volunteer groups, and a range of businesses that offer discounts or services for military members.
Representatives from the Recorder of Deeds office were on hand to help honorably discharged Lancaster County veterans enroll in the free Thank a Vet veterans discount program.
Outside, the Pennsylvania Department of Military & Veterans Affairs stationed its Veterans Outreach Van, from which accredited veterans service officers provided information and assistance to veterans and family members who may be eligible for benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Veterans and employers met face-to-face to discuss available positions at the Job Fair. Industries present included finance, automotive, warehouse, medical services, administrative/clerical, engineering, management, sales, manufacturing, retail, computer tech/IT, transportation, and others.
Michelle Emerich, a Marine veteran from Lancaster, attended the event seeking an administrative or accounts payable/receivable position.
“I’ve submitted a lot of resumes and applications, and I haven’t gotten an interview phone call,” Emerich, who is still completing her education, said. “So I thought if I came here, I might find something that’s more beneficial to me.”
In the Job Fair’s Resource Center, visitors could participate in mock interviews and resume reviews. Guidance was also available with veterans’ Medicare options and resources for veterans through the Small Business Administration.
Karl Keiderling, senior biomedical equipment technician with ISS Solutions, said the company hopes to encourage younger workers to join the engineering field.
“Twenty percent of our workforce is veterans, and [the military has] a great biomed program,” Keiderling said. “[When veterans] come out, they know what they’re doing already, and they understand the commitment that you have to make to a larger cause.”
The Veterans Expo & Job Fair will return to Central Pennsylvania Tuesday, March 26, 2019, at the York Expo Center, York.