More than 50 local and national employers set up shop in the main atrium of Warwick Mall last Friday to give veterans a first-come, first-serve chance at relevant employment opportunities during the seventh annual “Hiring our Heroes” job fair, organized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.
Booths were set up with employers, from local car dealers like Tarbox Toyota to huge corporations like Verizon and Cox, in addition to local police forces and the FBI, all looking to interview and potentially hire armed forces veterans or their spouses – sometimes right there the same day.
“When [service members] go into active duty or go into the reserves, they have a recruiter who gives them a job to do – they’re not fighting to get a job,” said Cara Cooke, senior manager of events and programs with the Chamber of Commerce Hiring Our Heroes Foundation. “In the civilian sector, a lot of times they don’t know how to start, so we try to help them do that.”
Prior to the job fair, veterans are invited to a workshop where they are taught how to craft a proper resume, conduct themselves in a private sector interview and translate their military skills into marketable skills for civilian jobs.
A total of 206 veterans and military spouses submitted resumes at Friday’s job fair, leading to 58 hard job offers and 67 follow-up interviews being scheduled.
“I salute and applaud you,” Senator Jack Reed said of the program’s organizers and employers who showed up to hire veterans. “Not only are we continuing to respect and to support those who protect us, but we’re also very smart. Because I can’t think of more talent available for our economy than the men and women who have served in our military forces.”
Warwick Ward 7 Councilman and Eastern Regional Director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Stephen McAllister concurred that the program is not only the right thing to do by giving veterans assistance in securing their futures, it is the smart decision for employers to get involved with as well.
“It’s to connect our members with good people, great individuals – men and women who you know will show up to work, you know they can execute any task asked of them and they have great reputations – so we want to connect people with these companies and companies want to hire these individuals because of their track record,” he said.
The fair had previously been held in Warwick at the National Guard Armory on Airport Road. This is the first year the program has taken place at the Warwick Mall – a fact that Warwick Mall General Manager Aram Garabedian, a veteran himself, was proud of.
“While I missed [being deployed], I remained dedicated to veterans’ affairs because giving your whole life is a major sacrifice,” he said. “So that’s why the Warwick Mall has always been behind veterans’ affairs.”
The mall didn’t charge the Foundation anything to host the event, and provided chairs and tables and tablecloths for all the participants.
Since 2011, the Hiring Our Heroes program has conducted over 1,100 hiring fairs in all 50 states as well as at military bases overseas, providing job opportunities to both active duty and retired service members. The fairs have led to a confirmed 30,000 hires and they have secured 230,000 pledged commitments from national and corporate sponsors to make hiring veterans an active part of their hiring strategies.
“To the employers here today, thank you. For stepping up to the plate and recognizing the important role that you play in Rhode Island’s comeback,” said Kasim Yarn, Director of the Rhode Island Office of Veterans’ Affairs. “Your mission is to take all the training that those service members have done and add that to your culture…You’re going to find out that you’re going to grow…and you’re going to flourish, without a shadow of a doubt.”