Veterans look for work at VA job fair
By Emily Ford
SALISBURY - Vance Smith earned $100,000 annually as a mortgage loan officer in Washington, D.C. until the brokerage firm he worked for went belly-up a year ago.
Since then, the Army veteran has done landscaping, odd jobs, construction work - anything to pay the bills.
Now living in Salisbury, Smith's military service could help him land a job. He attended a job fair for veterans Thursday at the VA Medical Center in Salisbury and lined up two interviews.
"Most jobs you apply for online, but this was face to face," he said. "I have a dynamic personality, and I can't get that across online."
More than 200 veterans went through the job fair in the first hour, many standing in line an hour before it started.
There are 720,000 unemployed veterans in the country, according to a statistic from Sen. Patty Murray, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs' Committee.
Joblessness among veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan was nearly 11 percent in August, compared with an 8.1 percent jobless rate nationwide.
Veterans came from as far as Greensboro, Charlotte and Hickory for the job fair. Twenty-five employers took resumes and applications and did initial screenings.
Companies have a tax incentive through the end of year to hire a veteran.
Military service often translates into a productive, reliable employee in the private sector, said Tara Manis-Healey, the VA's Compensated Work Therapy Program manager who organized the job fair.
"These employers recognize the transferable skills that veterans bring from their training in the military," Manis-Healey said.
Skills like logistical training and multitasking, she said.
"They are going to give it their all, just like they did in the military," she said. "That quality is going to transition to their civilian life and civilian employment."
Edward Jones knows well the benefits of hiring veterans, local representatives at the job fair said.
All three Edward Jones offices in Salisbury employ veterans or active military personnel: Jolene Philpott served in the Air Force, her father John Philpott served in the Navy, and Sandy Yow is a chaplain with the Air National Guard.
"We have had tremendous success with the veteran," said Jeff Hartsock, a financial adviser with Edward Jones.
Veterans are used to working hard, serving in leadership positions and managing themselves, Hartsock said.
Edward Jones, which nationwide has hired 220 veterans so far this year, has a program designed specifically to help veterans transition from military service to financial services.
The Forces Program is designed for people who don't have previous experience in the financial services industry but possess skills and competencies sought by Edward Jones, which often overlap with those cultivated in the military, such as time management and self-motivation, Jolene Philpott said.
The firm saw between 30 and 40 veterans in the first hour of the VA job fair, she said.
Out of roughly 12,500 Edward Jones financial advisors nationwide, about 1,300 are veterans.
Charles Sayers of Charlotte, who served four years in the Marines, said more companies should recognize the value of military service.
Veterans are organized, dedicated and honest, he said.
Unemployed for two years after a 26-year career in retail management, Sayers said every business should ask if a job applicant is a veteran, a question he sees on only some applications.
Like Smith, Sayers has been working odd jobs and living off unemployment benefits and savings. With a 14-year-old daughter, Sayers said his wife now works two jobs to make ends meet.
He said the job fair was too small to help him and he thought several vendors offered education, not jobs.
"It was a good idea, it just needs to be steamrollered," he said.
Veterans who attended ranged in age from 20s to 60s. They served in every branch of the military and in wars from Vietnam to Afghanistan, Manis-Healey said.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.