Veterans were upbeat about finding work Wednesday at the second annual “Paychecks for Patriots” job fair, one of 17 around the state.
“You just have to keep at it. I’m optimistic,” said Antonio Chestnut, a 52-year-old father of four in Fort Lauderdale. The Army veteran, who served in the 1980s, has worked overseeing security for major corporations, returned to school and now is looking again for a job.
More than 200 job seekers were registered for the job fair, which 60 employers attended.
Jesse Panuccio, executive director of Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity, attended Wednesday’s job fair at the National Guard Armory in Fort Lauderdale. He said veterans are entering a much-improved job market, especially in Broward County, where unemployment is 5.2 percent, below the statewide average.
Recently returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are particularly attractive to employers.
“They often have great skills,” Panuccio said. “They’ve been well-trained by Uncle Sam with all kinds of high-tech skills. They have also the soft workplace skills employers so often talk about, such as attention to detail, showing up on time, dealing with authority.”
CareerSource Broward is seeing more younger veterans, said Mason Jackson, president of CareerSource Broward, the county’s employment agency. “There are lots of opportunities out there: hospitality jobs; we led the state in manufacturing jobs; and we know construction is coming back.”
The agency has already worked with 1,800 veterans this year compared with last year’s total of 2,000, Jackson said.
Some employers were making job offers at the hiring event.
Shaquana Thompson, 23, of Fort Lauderdale, who got out of the Navy in June, said two employers offered her jobs. Yazmina Xehuerta, 47, a Navy veteran and a licensed practical nurse, interviewed with two employers.
One day at the job fair yielded results similar to a month’s worth of job search.
“I completed 100 applications in May and got two interviews. I completed 200 applications in June and got four interviews,” said Xehuerta, a Plantation resident.
About 80 local employers have committed to hiring veterans in support of Mission United, a partnership between Broward’s United Way and the American Red Cross. Mission United has helped about 1,500 veterans with employment, housing and other needs.
“I would love to see more,” said Thomas Ellis, senior director for Mission United.
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