'Hiring our Heroes'

Job fair allows veterans another chance to find work

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U.S. Navy veteran Rebecca Parvin, center, chats with Kelli Thomas, left, of Center Partners in Coeur d'Alene at the job fair, part of Saturday's North Idaho Veteran Stand-down at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds.

COEUR d'ALENE - Something very important and new was added this year to the North Idaho Veteran Stand-down at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds - a job fair.

One of the best ways to help a veteran is to get them a job, Eric Swanbeck, job fair coordinator and member of the stand-down committee, said at Saturday's event.

"We're going to have veterans coming back for the next several years from Afghanistan, Iraq and other places as we stand down from some of these conflicts," Swanbeck said. "So these guys are going to be looking for work."

Kootenai County currently has 1,000 veterans actively looking for work, he said. About 300 to 400 showed up for the job fair Saturday.

Nearly 50 employers set up tables to meet with veterans, some with jobs immediately available. Swanbeck said they plan to have the job fair next year, too, at the stand-down, where veterans also receive medical and dental services, donated food, clothing, housing information and surplus military items.

Sean Kendrick, general sales manager of Dave Smith Motors, said the business planned to hire multiple people from the job fair. He said he likes the work ethic and morals of veterans.

"Our business was built on having a good reputation, and they will be out on the front lines for us," Kendrick said.

Pat Gorman, of Northwest Fence Co., said he has been to a lot of job fairs, but at this one he was "blown away" by the veterans' willingness to do whatever it takes to get work.

"These guys are open to anything," he said. "I'm seeing strong work ethic."

He said he was definitely looking to make some hires, and he saw plenty of good candidates.

"This is very positive for us," he said.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce helped organize the job fair as part of its "Hiring Our Heroes" initiative.

Phil Maas, a U.S. Chamber representative for the Northwest region, listed the "soft skills" most veterans bring to a new job: "Drug free, attention to detail, loyalty, goal oriented, come early/stay late."

Maas added, "Couple the soft skills with whatever technical training they may have and you basically have a turn-key employee. They are ready to go."

Businesses with tables and representatives at the job fair included Avista Corp., Idaho Forest Group, Home Depot, Lowe's Home Improvement, US Bank, Sage truck driving school, Costco Wholesale and others.

U.S. Air Force veteran and Coeur d'Alene resident Warren Todd said, "I've found quite a few leads and I've talked to quite a few employers. It's encouraging."

He needs some encouragement, as he's been looking for a job for a year. He's doing temporary work in the meantime to earn much-needed cash.

He has an aviation background in the military, but job opportunities in that field are limited in Coeur d'Alene, he said.

"I'm basically looking for something entry level," Todd said.

U.S. Navy veteran Rebecca Parvin, of Spokane, said, "There's quite a bit of variety here. From Walmart, where everybody goes to shop, to truck drivers and security. Anybody can do any of these."

She said she has a temporary job currently, but wants something more dependable.

She walked away with a handful of applications and information about businesses.

Asked how long she's been looking for something permanent, she said, "Oh, man, like 10 years."

Robert Stearns, a U.S. Navy veteran from Spokane, said, "Being a combat vet, I come highly motivated."

He said veterans need very little supervision to get work done.

He was trained as an aviation electronics technician in the Navy, and he hopes he can turn that experience into a civilian job in electronics.

Even if he doesn't land a job from the job fair, he feels like it's valuable experience talking with prospective employers and good getting his name out there.

He added, "Even if they don't have employment, they remember who I am. That goes a long way."

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