Veterans bring skills, integrity to Shadow Lake job fair

Navy Cmdr. Doug Helton, right, speaks with Coca-Cola Warehouse Supervisor Ken Knox during the Hiring Our Heroes job fair for veterans on Jan. 16. Helton, a servicemember of 21 years, was exploring his options for employment after he leaves the military.

You wouldn’t get a sense that unemployment remains a problem during a recent veterans job fair.

The former Border’s Bookstore at Shadow Lake Towne Center in Papillion hosted the Hiring Our Heroes job fair for veterans and military spouses on Jan. 16.

Sponsored by the U.S. Chamber and the American Legion, more than 70 companies were in attendance, with more than 270 vets and spouses pre-registered to speak with employers.

Phil Maas, Northwestern Regional associate with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said the fair was part of a national effort. The chamber is holding more than 400 fairs across the country in the next 12 months, with a goal of hiring 500,000 by the end of 2014. Maas said the next Nebraska job fair through the U.S. Chamber will be held in September in Sydney.

“Nebraska is easily leading the way in results so far,” Maas said.

In fact, so many businesses wanted to advertise at the job fair, he ran out of space and had to turn them away.

Maas said veterans are usually great hires not only for their technical skills but soft skills, too. Attention to detail, loyalty and a strong work ethic are all aspects veterans possess, he said.

“You see the ability that they can work through diverse elements, you know they’ll get the job done and done well,” he said.

Jodi Ervin, a recruitment manager for Union Pacific stood behind a table speaking to several interested military members. She was advertising open positions within the company, and said veterans often make great company leaders.

“At Union Pacific, we operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, all year ’round, with an emphasis on safety,” Ervin said. “Military members are familiar with that schedule.”

Allison Malone, who is the human resource manager for SAC Federal Credit Union, said her company has a history with the military, especially the Air Force. SAC has branches on Offutt Air Force Base, and she said many of their employees are former military.

“No one understands those in the military better than previous military members,” she said.

Navy E6 Michael Perkins joined the military six years ago. He was looking for a job because he was worried about employment when he soon exits the military. He said exploring his options was the best course of action.

“I worry about it, but coming here helps. Just sitting at home waiting won’t get me anywhere,” he said.

Navy Cmdr. Doug Helton shared the sentiment. After 21 years of military service, including piloting helicopters, he said he was 10 days away from retiring. Helton said being a Navy officer brought a tremendous skill set working through demanding conditions.

“Skills like that are easily transferable,” he said. “Veterans just have a high level of integrity.”

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