SPRINGFIELD, IL (06/09/2014)(readMedia)-- PEORIA, Ill. – Members of the Heroes 2 Hired (H2H) program, a Department of Defense initiative aimed at helping unemployed veterans find jobs, teamed up with Goodwill's Veteran Services program to host a job fair at the Goodwill Commons building in Peoria, Illinois, June 5.
Darrell Melrose of Washington, Illinois, the H2H employment transition coordinator for Illinois, said he believes veterans bring a wide variety of skills to civilian employment.
"Military trained employees are more likely to show up on time, ready to accomplish tasks in a safe and efficient manner," said Melrose. "Servicemembers are adept at teamwork, working in austere environments, adapting to their surroundings, accustomed to receiving and conducting training and much more."
Melrose, who is also a captain with the Illinois Army National Guard's 65thTroop Command in Springfield, Illinois, has been a part of the H2H program since its inception as the Employment Initiative Program in 2011.
Melrose said the H2H program's robust website helps Soldiers translate their military skills into civilian terms. The site also allows Soldiers to register with the program.
"Beyond the H2H website, registered job seekers are assigned a case manager, who can assist them in any number of ways with their career search, such as resume help, interview assistance, navigating the website, and providing opportunities," said Melrose.
Melrose said he works closely with his counterparts at Goodwill and the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve program.
Dick Franzen, of Germantown Hills, Illinois, the ombudsman director of Employer Support for Guard and Reserves (ESGR) for Illinois was also at the event. Franzen, who retired as a lieutenant colonel from the Army Reserves, said he has been volunteering for the ESGR for nine years and has worked with Melrose on many occasions.
"We get our funding from the same pot, so we work together," said Franzen.
Franzen said one function of the ESGR is to help mediate any issues that might arise between a Soldier and an employer.
Representing Goodwill at the fair was Johanna Wagner, of Rock Falls, Illinois. Wagner serves as the veteran services manager for Goodwill of Central Illinois.
Wagner said she doesn't think many veterans consider Goodwill when they are unemployed.
"I wish more would come in when they are underemployed or unemployed. We could get many of them a better job within their skillsets," said Wagner.
While this is the first event of its kind in this facility, Wagner said she believes it has been very successful and she would like to see more events like it in the future.
Wagner said they had so much interest from employers they had to turn down a few offers of booths because of space limitations.
One of the employers present was Volt Workforce Solutions, a staffing agency that has offices across the country. Christopher Page of Indianapolis, Indiana, is a military program liaison for Volt. Page was present alongside his colleague Shelby DuBois of Pekin, Illinois, a liaison to Volt from the Caterpillar company.
Page said Volt has hired approximately 3,100 veterans within the past year and has committed to hiring 10,000 within the next three years. DuBois and Page are both veterans themselves. DuBois retired from the Marine Corps as a chief warrant officer after 22 years of service, while Page retired as a staff sergeant from the Army after 26 years of service.
DuBois said he works with more than just veterans. However, he said he feels veterans bring skills that their civilian counterparts might not have.
"(Veterans) bring a certain level of maturity over their peers. They have real-world common sense and that is sorely needed," said DuBois.
A representative from Congressman Aaron Schock's office, Michael Gilmore, was at the fair as well. Gilmore, who is also a staff sergeant with the Illinois Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 178th Infantry Regiment in Chicago, is a military and veterans affairs specialist for the 18th district. He offers constituent services to veterans in Schock's district.
"I help vets who are having issues with their GI Bill, the VA, even their employers," said Gilmore.
Many veterans don't realize they have resources through their representatives in government, Gilmore said.
With close to a dozen vendors and more than 300 estimated visitors, Wagner said the event went better than she could have anticipated. She also said this event is a small precursor to a much larger event slated to take place Aug. 8.
Melrose said the sponsors of this event, which include Goodwill Industries of Central Illinois, Hero 2 Hired, ESGR, and the Illinois Department of Employment Security will partner with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce employment initiative program known as Hiring our Heroes and will conduct a large veteran hiring event at the Peoria Civic Center where there will be more than 100 vendors and veteran service organizations.