Hundreds of veterans seek jobs at the Augusta Armory
AUGUSTA — Franklin Smart has more than a decade of work experience, but some employers have told him he doesn’t have the right experience.
Smart, 35, spent nearly 13 years flying unmanned aerial vehicles for the U.S. Army. He recently completed a degree program and is having trouble finding a job in the medical coding field.
“A lot of the hospitals want a minimum of two years of experience, but since I just graduated, where am I supposed to get the experience?” he said. “I’ll do anything just to get in the door, which is the first problem.” Smart was one of hundreds of veteran job seekers at the Augusta Armory Tuesday morning for the third-annual Maine Hire-a-Vet Campaign job fair.
More than 140 employers set up around the Armory floor collecting resumes and interacting with veterans of all ages and experience levels. Most of the state’s law enforcement agencies were represented, as well as other state groups, plus companies including Hancock Lumber, Bath Iron Works, TD Bank and Texas Instruments.
There were men in jackets and ties, chinos and cargo shorts and women in dresses, slacks and jeans, and most of them were carrying folders or binders with resumes to give to employers.
Kevin Raven, human resources manager for Hancock Lumber, said veterans bring a lot of unique experiences and skill sets to the company.
“(A veteran) brings leadership experience, and as a veteran myself, I know what kind of training they get through their careers, and it’s a perfect fit for our operation,” he said. “There’s a huge crossover in teamwork, leadership, safety, technology and communication.”
Adria Horn, director of the Maine Bureau of Veterans’ Services and a U.S. Army veteran, said about 10 percent of the state’s population is veterans, so it’s important to have events like Tuesday’s job fair. She said hiring a veteran is important, but she also gave reasons why it’s hard for veterans to find jobs.
“In the military, we award on performance and promote on potential,” Horn told the crowd before the event began. “Every single job somebody in the military has had they had no idea what they’re doing.”
Horn said the job search can be challenging for veterans because they are often not looking for a job they’ve already performed, but rather a job they know they can do.
“You might see a resume that has absolutely nothing to do with what you’re looking for,” she said. “But they think they do and they think they have the potential to be successful.”
Claire Good has a resume that might cause some employers to do a double-take. Good, 62, was one of the first female military police officers in the Army in the 1970s, but spent the last 26 years in higher education. Most recently, Good — who has a doctorate in counselor education — was the vice-president for student engagement and enrollment management at the University of Maine at Augusta. She’s looking to move away from higher education to use her skills to benefit a community.
Good said an event like the job far is perfect for someone with a resume like hers.
“I can talk about what I’ve done and what I’m looking for, and they can talk about what they’re looking for and we can match things up,” Good said. “I’m not looking to be a vice president again; I just want to utilize my skills in a different avenue.”
Auta Main, veterans program manager for the Maine Department of Labor, said veterans leave their service with skills that naturally translate to a career in law enforcement, which is why several state and local agencies had tables at Tuesday’s job fair.
Kennebec County Sheriff Ken Mason, himself a Marine Corps veteran, said about half of the sheriff’s office’s employees are veterans.
“Veterans have already proven themselves, because if they can successfully make it through the military, we’ll scoop them up in a heartbeat,” Mason said. “We act similar and the structure in very pro-military.”
Maine Warden Service Cpl. John MacDonald said his agency has some veteran employees, but despite the considerable skills a veteran brings, being a warden is a little different.
“It’s important to wear many different hats in this job, and some of the jobs in the military can prepare you,” he said. “What we’re looking for is an off-road law enforcement officer, but for us, it’s important they have hunting and fishing experience.”
The event was the kickoff of a statewide campaign to have at least 100 veterans hired by at least 100 or more employers in the next 100 days.
Main said the Hire-A-Vet campaign provides support for employers to expand the hiring of veterans, to include a network of state and federal agencies, resources and nonprofits, education on military language and culture, recruiting and hiring assistance, and recognition for the hiring and advancement of veterans and military family members.
Last year’s campaign included 147 employers that hired 197 veterans with an average starting wage of $22.23, which was more than $5 more than the previous year.
Smart, of Lincoln, said he had spoken to many potential employers about his resume and how it should be organized and said he got positive feedback.
“I just need someone to give me a chance,” he said.
Jason Pafundi — 621-5663
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