Nation’s 2nd largest job fair for veterans held in Hampton

Posted at 8:24 PM, Aug 02, 2012
and last updated 2012-08-03 00:40:36-04

They came dressed to impress. Some were in business suits and others were in military uniforms.

They walked through the crowd--eyes scanning to see which employers best fit them.

For the most popular companies, they stood in line, waiting for their moment to make their pitch to potential bosses.

Sylvester Woods was one of those veterans just trying to stand on their own two feet after life in the military.

“The challenge is within myself, me really saying goodbye to something I did for the last 20 years, and then getting adjusted and wanting to do something else,” said Woods who just retired from the Navy six weeks ago and has yet to find a job.“It’s been pretty tough making the transition because when you’re in the military, you're used to things happening so fast."

Other job fairs have been hit-or-miss, sometimes with more for-profit schools than actual employers. But not at the “Hiring our Heroes” event.

“One of the reasons I came here is because they said these employers can't come unless they have positions open,” said Woods.

More than 150 employers came to the fair, including military commands looking for civilian workers, contractors that only hire disabled veterans, companies specifically looking for military spouses—translating into thousands of jobs.

“When you talk to people, they say there are no jobs, and they kind of get discouraged, but if they went to an event like this, they would realize there are a lot of job opportunities available,” said Chief Petty Officer Clifton Ostwald.

CPO Ostwald is getting his start early. He doesn't retire for another two years, but wants to make sure he is ready to transition after leaving the Navy.

“It’s military driven, with so many opportunities, and it’s great they put on this event,” said Ostwald.

Many companies came ready to hire, with managers looking to fill specific positions.

Veterans got to hand over their resumes in person, and market themselves straight to the decision makers.

A mini-interview sometimes took place right on the convention floor, veterans hoping for some good news in the coming days.

“They took my application, told me to call this number ASAP, and we will get you going, so very fruitful today,” said Woods.

The “Hiring for Heroes” event was put together by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Military Spouse Business Alliance, the Shipmates to Workmates (SM2WM) civil service hiring initiative spearheaded by Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) and other commands, the Office of United States Senator Mark Warner - the event’s Honorary Chair, Peninsula Worklink, Peninsula Council For Workforce Development, the Peninsula Chamber, U.S. Department of Labor’s OFCCP, the Virginia Employment Commission, Fort Eustis ACAP, the Fleet & Family Support Center, the Regional Military Employment Program, LAFB Airman and Family Readiness Center, the Virginia Wounded Warriors program, the Virginia Department of Rehabilitative Services, the Disability Employment Initiative, Blue Star Families, the Thomas Nelson Community College Military Affairs, the Department of Labor's Veterans Employment and Training Service (DOL VETS), the Virginia Committee of the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), the Green Jobs Alliance, NBC News, and other local partners.