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July 29, 2014

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Job fair at UNLV meant to bridge gap between veterans, employers

Ross Bryant’s goal is to bridge the gap between veterans and potential employers.

The director of Veteran Services at UNLV deals with thousands of men and woman coming home from war and returning to school. Many of them aren’t sure how to handle the lack of structure or teamwork in the civilian world, while others don’t know how to translate their experience into marketable job skills.

Meanwhile, Bryant said, many employers often seek veterans for open positions but don’t know how to find them.

On Saturday, Bryant worked to bridge that gap with the first-ever veterans career fair and workshop held at UNLV. Bryant collaborated with UNLV’s Career Services Department and Sen. Harry Reid’s office to create an event that not only teaches veterans tools to enter the workforce but also connects them with more than 80 hiring employers.

“A lot of companies do their own thing looking to find veterans, but it’s a challenge for the veterans to go to all those events,” Bryant said. “If we consolidate these events, they could be much more successful. Today is an example of that.”

More than 200 veterans showed up for the event at UNLV’s Student Union. The program began at 8 a.m. with a three-hour workshop. Veterans received tips on how to improve their resume and interviewing skills, how to fill out the complicated federal job application forms, and how to enter the job-hunting process with the right mindset.

Let’s say you were an infantryman in the Marines. You would sort of feel like, ‘Well I don’t know what I’m qualified for,’” Bryant said. “What we coach them on is it’s not about being an infantryman. We say you were in the Marine Corps, you were part of an elite team. Everything you did during Marine service (involved) selfless service, loyalty, dedication, reliability ... leadership skills. All these things become valuable values an employer wants.”

After the workshop, veterans attended a career fair. The majority of employers were made up of large corporations such as Wells Fargo and law enforcement agencies such as the San Francisco Police Department. Hal Winlow at Bureau of Land Management said the agency looks to hire veterans for help fight fires.

“Veterans come with a wide variety of skills that they developed in the military that apply quickly to us in the fire service,” Winlow said. “The job requires a lot of dedication and hard work, and that’s what we find with military veterans.”

UNLV Career Services interim director Raelynn Frazier Lee said every company at the fair had job openings for veterans. She estimated that there were more than 100 jobs available at the fair.

“We actually had to expand to a larger venue because the demand was greater than what we expected,” Frazier Lee said.

Many of the veterans shuffled from booth to booth collecting business cards and fliers while leaving their resumes and contact information on signup sheets. Rishone Dolphin, 33, did not find much success at the career fair.

Dolphin served in the Air Force in vehicle maintenance for 11 years, four of which were active duty. He said none of the jobs piqued his interest, but he is just beginning to look for work while he goes to school at UNLV.

Mike Hogan found the career fair helpful. Hogan served tours in Afghanistan in 2011 and in Iraq in 2005, working logistics for the Army. He said he’s been looking for work for about a month, and an event like this allows him to compete for work on equal footing against peers, something lacking in normal career fairs.

“I got a good vibe from the people here; the whole atmosphere is positive,” Hogan said. “I feel like I’ll leave here with options and opportunities in the future.”

Bryant knows one career fair won’t employ all the veterans in the community, but he hopes the career fair and workshop will be the first of many to help bridge the gap between veterans and employers.

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