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DailyTidings.com
  • 'Hiring our Heroes'

    Veterans make use of job fair to ease transition to civilian employment
  • Medford resident Kyle Tuttle knows it's unlikely he will be able to roll over his U.S. Army job into the civilian world.
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  • Medford resident Kyle Tuttle knows it's unlikely he will be able to roll over his U.S. Army job into the civilian world.
    After all, an explosive ordnance disposal technician isn't exactly in high demand stateside.
    "I want to get out of the technical side of what I was doing," said Tuttle, 27, who completed his hitch in the Army last month. "I want to use my management skills — my team leading skills — that I learned in the Army and try to apply it to a job outside."
    A 2004 graduate of St. Mary's School who served in Iraq in 2010, the former sergeant was checking out Thursday's job fair for veterans and military spouses at The Expo in Central Point.
    Dubbed "Hiring Our Heroes," the event was hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation in partnership with other groups. Participating were 35 employers, both local and national.
    Since the program was launched in spring 2011, more than 100,000 veterans and military spouses have found meaningful jobs through it, according to the foundation. More than 520 similar job fairs have been held around the nation.
    Most veterans dropping in at the job fairs are from the Vietnam War era to present day, said Phil Maas, 49, of Salem, an Army veteran in charge of the regional fairs for the foundation. His region covers everything from Alaska to Nebraska and down to Utah.
    "The age goes anywhere from 22 or so to Vietnam-era vets who want something part time or are just looking to get their self-worth back," said the former sergeant first class who retired from the Army in 2011. "You run the gamut on age."
    The jobs being offered are varied, from construction to truck driving, from working in a bank to serving as an emergency responder, he said.
    "A lot of our vets gravitate to truck driving or becoming first responders," he said.
    When an employer survey revealed that many veterans didn't do well when it came to job interviews and the skills they learned in the service, the foundation made some technical adjustments to the fair, he said.
    "The constant theme was that our applicants weren't prepared to talk about what they did in the military in civilian industry terms," he said. "They could talk in acronyms. They could talk the element of scorched earth."
    The U.S. Chamber has since started a free employment workshop within the job fairs in which veterans get pointers on how to conduct a job interview and prepare resumes, he said.
    "We are really looking to help our vets and their family members," he said.
    Over at a booth, Harrisburg resident Chris Rice, 38, representing the Sherman Bros. Trucking firm looking to hire qualified drivers, said the fairs also help employers.
    "I have veterans who work for me," he said. "We hire them for their loyalty, good work ethic. What we look at is the fact they are used to being away in a work environment where there is a structure, a hierarchy.
    "We could put 40 people to work today," he added. "They would be looking at anywhere from $40,000 to $70,000 a year."
    Eagle Point resident Bob Huff, 70, a former army sergeant and the state commander of the American Legion, said the job fairs do their job.
    "I have seen a lot of veterans hired on the spot — there are jobs out there," he said.
    The American Legion supports legislation that would allow someone who served as a truck driver, paramedic or other job in the military to receive credentials enabling him or her to obtain the same job in the civilian world, he said.
    "Our veterans have high ethics," he said. "They are ready to go to work. They really shouldn't have to go back to school if it is something they've already been doing for years."
    Tuttle, who attended the University of Oregon before entering the Army, said the job fair gave him hope of landing a job.
    "You can transfer a lot of what you did in the military," Tuttle said. "There are a lot of things like leadership you can transfer over. You have management skills, not just technical skills."
    He participated in a mock job interview at the free employment workshop.
    "It was helpful," he said, although noting the Army has a similar workshop for soldiers leaving the service. "But this workshop gave me a few more places to look, a few more tips that the Army didn't tell me about."
    Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.
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