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Boots 2 Work Gives Transitioning Service Members Head Start
by U.S. Army Sgt. Deja Borden - September 16, 2014

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TACOMA, Wash. - Approximately 500 service members, retirees, and family members attended the second annual Boots 2 Work Military Career Fair at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma, Wash. on Aug. 27, 2014.

Workforce Central hosted the event, which gave attendants the opportunity to meet with employers currently offering jobs.

Approximately 500 service members, retirees, and family members speak with employers from the Puget Sound area during a career fair in Cheney Stadium in Tacoma, WA on August 27, 2014. Workforce Central hosted the Boots 2 Work Military Career Fair to connect the Joint Base Lewis-McChord and surrounding communities to local employers currently hiring. (Courtesy Photo)
Approximately 500 service members, retirees, and family members speak with employers from the Puget Sound area during a career fair in Cheney Stadium in Tacoma, WA on August 27, 2014. Workforce Central hosted the Boots 2 Work Military Career Fair to connect the Joint Base Lewis-McChord and surrounding communities to local employers currently hiring. (Courtesy Photo)

“This is another opportunity for job seekers to seek out employers,” said Shellie Willis, military workforce development manager.

Willis, a retired Army veteran, said she understands the difficulties of transitioning out of the service and believes events like Boots 2 Work are vital to all service members preparing to transition out of the military.

“The need has increased this year,” Willis said. “Last year there was no threat of forced transition, but this year it's very real. This year the need for spouses and service members to find employment has intensified.”

In the past year, the military as a whole has begun a downsizing process. The Army plans to reduce its current number of Soldiers from approximately 570,000 to 440,000 over the next decade. Many Soldiers will be transitioning out of the Army and will need to find work elsewhere.

Madalain Merton, business service specialist for Workforce Central, has noticed an increase in veterans searching for employment outside of the military in this year's event.

“Compared to last year there's a lot more applications coming through,” said Merton.

Willis and Merton noticed the growth of employment needs for veterans and used the event as a way to assist their needs. R�sum� reviews and fashion advice were a few of the services offered during the event. Some attendants received makeovers to educate them on appropriate attire for interviews and meetings with employers.

Jessica Johnson, a retired Air Force master sergeant and stay-at-home mom, said the services offered at the event are a big help during a job search. She received a lot of useful information about applying for jobs when she attended a workshop for the career fair a day prior to the event. The workshop included valuable tips on what employers are searching for and where to apply. Johnson thinks events like Boots 2 Work should be required for all service members.

“It's not always about the job itself, but you as an individual learning how you fit in a specific employment,” Johnson said.
Military focused career fairs are not only a great opportunity for service members and their families, but for employers seeking well-trained workers.

“I think veterans supply a really finite skill set that helps organizations leapfrog that transition when training new employees,” said Terrence Hodge, veteran business services associate. “Veterans bring in a lot of experience being able to think on their feet, take initiative and have a very ready-made process for organizations.”

Hodge transitioned out of the Army as a sergeant first class and believes his military background helped tremendously in his search for a new career.

The self-discipline, good work ethic, leadership experience, and integrity embedded into military personnel is a great asset for service members when they are seeking employment, Merton added.

Along with the annual career fair in Tacoma, Workforce Central also assists with hosting a biannual career fair on Joint Base Lewis-McChord with the Army Career and Alumni Program. All veterans and their family members are encouraged to take advantage of every career fair offered to gain better knowledge and opportunities.

“The more you network the more you gain experience in being able to connect with employers and be able to market yourself,” Willis said.

“Events like this are great for Soldiers leaving the service,” said Sgt. Joshua Parr, motor transport operator, 513th Transportation Company.

Parr is transitioning out of the Army due to physical injuries and thinks his military background and attending the career fair can give him a head start in finding employment.

Attendants at the career fair met with 65 different military friendly businesses looking to hire. Service members and retirees like Parr and Johnson increased their understanding of the application process and how to use their military past to their advantage.

Willis and the rest of the Workforce Central team hope they positively impacted the efforts of transitioning service members and the Pierce County community.

“Last year we had 17 confirmed hires, possibly more,” Willis said. “This year we hope for many more.”

Individuals who attend military-focused events like the Boots 2 Work Career Fair can benefit by finding their future careers in the civilian job market before transitioning out of the military service.

By U.S. Army Sgt. Deja Borden
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2014

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