Thousands turn out for veterans job fair

WARNER ROBINS — More than 2,600 job seekers funneled into the Museum of Aviation in Warner Robins on Thursday for a Georgia Department of Labor-sponsored veterans’ job fair.

The fair was open to anyone looking for a job, though a majority of the people attending the fair had served in the military. About 80 employers attended the job fair, though not every company at the fair had open positions to fill.

“When we opened the door this morning, we had 750 people in the first 15 minutes,” said Maureen Wilson, local director of the Georgia Department of Labor.

“We had 1,700 people last year, and that was a record,” said Jane Simpson, manager of the Houston County Career Center. This year’s job fair brought in the same number of people within the first two hours.

The overwhelming turnout of unemployed veterans has been a common scene recently. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in March that unemployment among veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan was 11.2 percent, more than two percentage points higher than the national unemployment rate at the time.

“They face some unique challenges in finding a job,” Wilson said. “Part of the problem is, once their enlistment ends, they’re unemployed.”

That’s just the problem Staff Sgt. Timothy Harris is facing. He just returned home from Afghanistan and will soon be leaving the Army after 10 years in uniform. “It’s an adjustment,” Harris said. “I’m still trying to figure all this out.”

The Georgia Department of Labor has made a point of assisting veterans in their transitions to the civilian world and helping them find employment, Wilson said. The department employs at least one liaison at each of its 53 career centers to deal with veterans looking for work.

“Most have more than one,” she added.

Wilson, herself an Air Force veteran, insisted that veterans are given top priority when they submit résumés to the Georgia Department of Labor.