'Hiring Our Heroes' helps veterans find jobs

March 28, 2012 4:22:08 PM PDT
As the war in Iraq comes to a close, and Afghanistan will see a withdrawal of American troops by 2014, the issue of veterans' employment is only going to grow.

So, Wednesday, state and corporate leaders came together for a jobs fair that actually is resulting in real military members getting real jobs.

"It is very, very important that we band together in the best traditions of Abraham Lincoln's democracy and work with our employers all across our state and across our country to make sure those who have volunteered, who have gone forward, that when they come home they don't have to fight for a job," said Pat Quinn.

And, with that, they were off, some of the Chicago region's 14,000 unemployed veterans looking to write the next chapter in their lives. This is the second annual Hiring Our Heroes jobs fair.

Former U.S. Marine Pedro Nunez was hired as a management systems analyst on the spot by Robert Betori of Student Scout, an employment search firm. He said Wednesday's veterans have the technical skills plus the traditional military pedigree that employers want

"He has served our country and number one, he brings passion, he brings commitment, he brings loyalty, he brings integrity, he brings discipline, and we desperately need that in everything we do," said Betori.

Defense contractor Navistar was very active at the fair on Wednesday. They have hundreds of jobs waiting for veterans who have used their vehicles in the theatre of war.

"The discipline, the professionalism, the culture they came from, these aren't people you have to have come in and spend a lot of time training," said Navistar President Archie Massicotte.

But it is not just defense industries that are looking for talent. Everyone from insurance and financial service firms, to manufacturers, to the military itself is was for talent at the fair.

Dain Olson is currently employed downtown in logistics. But he came to the fair Wednesday to see if there is something even better, a job that will get him closer to his home in the western suburbs. That ability to choose employment is a luxury for which the Army reservist is grateful.

"It is kind of overwhelming," said Olson. "The support has been unbelievable."

Chicago's 14,000 unemployed veterans are part of a national group estimated to be at least 1 million people.

So far, the Hiring Our Heroes program has resulted in about 8,500 jobs for the 100,000 or so vets that have taken part.

More info Wednesday's job fair.