TRAVERSE CITY — Fred Marsh is a hero looking to be hired.
The Army and Navy veteran recently lost his job driving trucks and decided to further his education by enrolling in Northwestern Michigan College’s engineering technology program.
He fell on hard times while waiting for his classes to start, but found help from the Veterans Administration and a neighbor who financially helped him to keep a roof over his head.
“I got a whole new outlook as of this morning,” he said Monday. “A fellow veteran and fellow truck driver helped me out.”
Marsh hopes the help continues as he seeks a job to pay bills as his classes are covered through the Post-9/11 GI bill. He thinks he has a line on an employer willing to work around his school schedule, and plans to meet them at the Hiring Our Heroes job fair.
More than 45 employers are expected to participate in the event from 10:00 a.m. to 1 p.m. today in NMC’s Hagerty Conference Center. The event is hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.
Ron Smith retired from the Navy and now is a member of the Traverse Area Human Resources Association Board of Directors. He said veterans and military spouses can struggle to find employment for various reasons, from concerns over post-traumatic stress disorder to perceived skills mismatches.
“(Veterans) are not used to selling themselves,” he said. “This is new to them to get out there. A huge problem is translating military lingo into a civilian resume.”
Smith said his organization has a free employment workshop an hour before the event that includes resume writing class and interview coaching.
“I encourage veterans in a job now to look at what’s out there,” he said. “There’s going to be some really nice offers for employment.”
Peter Leighton, senior vice president of recruiting at Combined Insurance, said his company is scheduled to participate in about half of the 400 Hiring Our Heroes held nationwide, including in Traverse City. He said veterans have experience that transfers well to sales and management positions.
“The fact is they can and are willing to be trained to do whatever,” he said.
The job fair also includes options for those looking to get back into military service. Staff Sgt. Beau Vore said the U.S. Air Force looks to hire and recruit veterans from all branches of the military.
“This event right here is one way to stretch out to veterans struggling to find a job,” he said.
Ken Rapelje, local veterans’ employment representative with Michigan Works!, said there are 7,000 veterans in the Grand Traverse area. He and his colleague, Dale Ginzel, disabled veterans outreach program specialist, encouraged employed and unemployed veterans alike to register with the Pure Michigan Talent Connect job system.
“We can help veterans better if they’re registered,” Rapelje said.