Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 2, 2013

SALISBURY — Larry Honbarrier served in the Air Force from 1971-75 “B.C.,” he said. “Before computers.”
The Granite Quarry resident spent 32 years working with the U.S. Postal Service before retiring. He now wants to get back into the work force, but it’s not easy.
“We need to know how to beef up our past experiences to make a connection with today’s work force,” Honbarrier said.
He said he’s looking into returning to school using his GI Bill benefits, and he has an interest in the field of human resources.
Honbarrier was one of about 35 veterans who attended a seminar Friday to receive job skills training, one-on-one mentoring and information about going back to school.
Rowan-Cabarrus Community College hosted the free event, called “Vet Connect,” Friday at its N.C. Research Campus location in Kannapolis.
David King, director of customized training at Rowan-Cabarrus, said the college wanted to go beyond a job fair to help unemployed veterans. It joined with several partners to host a one-day seminar to help veterans take practical steps toward finding employment.
“This is the first time it’s ever been done, and I would have never dreamed it was going to be this successful,” King said.
After breakfast and a career assessment, the veterans were invited to attend three out of four breakout sessions about different topics.
In a session about resume writing and getting hired, they learned how to structure a resume, include key words and phrases and connect their experience and skills with the jobs they want.
Tangela Davis, a representative from Trinity Strategic Consulting in Concord, also led a computer lab later in the day to help participants write an electronic resume.
Joe Livingstone, a veteran from Kannapolis, said the session on resumes was especially helpful, because he realized he hasn’t been organizing his very well.
“It was great, and I’m glad I had the chance to have this opportunity,” he said.
Livingstone served in the Army from 1973-80. He has been working as a nurse’s assistant at a nursing home, but he’s looking to try something new.
“I want to see if I can go back to school, because they offer a lot of stuff for veterans,” he said. “Right now, I’m interested in going back to school to be a physical therapy assistant.”
Debra Simmons, of Salisbury, served in the Army for about year in the late 1970s.
Since then, she has worked in different sales and marketing roles, most recently in the health care field. But she lost her job in March, so when Friday’s seminar was announced, she signed up to learn about career and educational opportunities.
“I think this is an excellent idea,” Simmons said. “All the session were good, every last one, because all of them are connected in some way.”
Another session Friday aimed to help people who want to go back to school. Rowan-Cabarrus staff talked about the college’s various services available to veterans, including financial aid and benefits, disability services and counseling.
Misty Moler, director of counseling at Rowan-Cabarrus, said she saw a lot of frustration about benefits, especially among the older veterans. Sometimes their benefits have already expired, and they didn’t know there was an expiration date.
Still, the veterans did appreciate learning more about their educational opportunities, Moler said.
“A lot of people are feeling like they need to renew and refresh, especially with compute skills,” she said.
The Concord-based Matthew Poore Leadership Group led a breakout session Friday about translating military skills to corporate skills.
Finally, a seminar on starting a business was led by the U.S. Small Business Administration and SCORE, a nonprofit association offering advice to small businesses.
At lunch, the veterans watched a presentation by the U.S. Department of Commerce Division of Workforce Solutions, formerly known as the Employment Security Commission, about “dressing for success.”
Participants were then given the opportunity to meet one-on-one with career mentors and browse the sponsors’ information booths.
Groups represented at the seminar included Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Small Business Administration, SCORE, Trinity Strategic Consulting, the Matthew Poore Leadership Group, Manpower to Horsepower and Rowan-Cabarrus Community College.
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.