Seventeen local employers took part in a military career fair and hiring event for active-duty soldiers, veterans and military family members Tuesday morning on Fort Stewart.
According to Savannah Tech’s military-outreach coordinator Jeff Ashmen, recent surveys have shown a large number of Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield soldiers leaving the service prefer to stay in this area. Ashmen said some employers taking part in Tuesday’s job fair have up to 30 percent or more of their workforce made up of veterans.
“We brought together some of the local businesses from the surrounding communities — Liberty, Effingham, Chatham and Bryan counties,” Ashmen said. “We’re promoting this as a local hiring event. There’re polls that tell us about 40 to 45 percent of soldiers separating from service here at Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield are interested in staying in the local area. But it’s difficult finding a job.
“So what we’re trying to do is bring those two together — the soldiers who want to stay in this area and the businesses that want to hire veterans.”
Not all veterans attending the hiring event were active duty or soldiers recently separated from the service. Hinesville resident Malcolm Spiegeler said he retired from the Army in 1995 as a mess sergeant, but has been unable to find a full-time job directly related to food service. After talking with representatives with Blue Bell Ice Cream, Spiegeler talked with and submitted a resume to Derst Baking Company.
“I’m looking for just about anything right now, but what I want to do is work back in food service,” he said. “I’ve had jobs delivering ice cream, potato chips and milk. Recently, I’ve been working with different maintenance contractors here on post.”
Danica Pommerenck and Shea Brock with Derst’s human-resource department said their Savannah-based company has about 280 employees. They were taking resumes for production workers and maintenance jobs. Although they don’t currently have openings, Brock said a veteran like Spiegeler, particularly with a background in both food service and maintenance, is the type of employee they are looking for.
Pommerenck, who referred to herself as a “military brat,” said she understands both the sacrifice service men and women make while serving and the re-employment struggles they have when they leave the service. Brock agreed.
“We want to put our veterans back to work,” Brock said. “I think it’s important to help them transition back into the civilian workforce. They always come with special skills and a lot of dedication.”
Nearby, Clint McCrae, operations manager for Home Depot’s Savannah import distribution center, talked with Sgt. Maj. Joe Constante about employment opportunities. Human-resource coordinator Amani Fann said her company knows that when they hire a veteran, they’re getting someone with lots of self-discipline, someone they can depend on to get to work on time, and, more importantly, someone who’s more motivated than their average workers. She said many of their employees who are veterans tend to get promoted faster because they’re so dependable.
Constante said he was looking for construction-related jobs because that’s what he’s done for the Army for the last 31 ½ years. The Hinesville resident said he’s currently a construction supervisor.
“I’ll retire on April 15, 2015, with 32 years in the Army,” Constante said. “I’m looking for part-time jobs in construction or equipment moving. Mostly, I’m looking for a job that lets me stay here. I don’t want to move my family anymore.”
One of the stations soldiers and veterans paused the longest was with Firth Rixson Forgings LLC. Talent-management supervisor Kristen Bradley and Human Resource Director Dennis Creekmore responded to questions and talked about their company’s job opportunities. Bradley said their company has some job openings they are looking to fill, preferably with veterans.
“We’re looking for operators for our machining operations,” Creekmore said. “We’re really interested in the military because they’re able to work in a plant, they’re goal-oriented and team-oriented. Our current workforce is actually about 35 percent ex-military. (The military) has been a good source for recruits and successful employees.”
Ashmen said Savannah Tech is planning to hold another career fair from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Nov. 7 at its Savannah campus. He said that last year, that particular job fair had more than 80 employers participating.