Iraq war veteran Bryan Bierlair thought his service in the military would help him land a job.
“Every time I apply somewhere I say I’m a veteran,” said the 27-year old Akronite Friday, as he prepared to talk to potential employers at a veterans job fair.
“I never get any callbacks,” he said.
Bierlair, who served four years on active duty and is completing a four-year Army Reserve enlistment as an operating room technician, was one of an anticipated 200 veterans who turned out for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce-sponsored Hiring Our Heroes job fair held at the John S. Knight Center in downtown Akron on Friday.
Bierlair hoped to find a job in the medical field during the job fair.
More than 60 employers set up tables at the convention center and were available to talk to veterans looking for work.
Emily Munoz, Eastern Regional Associate for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes program, said that by the end of March, 400 job fairs will have been held around the country like the one in Akron.
“The unemployment numbers among veterans are much different than among the rest of the population,” she said.
According to Labor Department statistics, the unemployment rate for all veterans fell from 8.1 to 6.7 percent from last September to this September.
At the same time, the unemployment rate for all post-9/11 veterans dropped from 11.7 to 9.7 percent from September 2011 to September 2012.
The unemployment rate for all women veterans, however, climbed from 9.7 percent in September 2011 to 13.2 percent in September 2012.
And the unemployment rate for post-9/11 female veterans jumped from 14.7 to 19.9 percent for the same period, government statistics showed.
The national unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent in September from an 8.1 percent level in August.
The most recent Summit County and Ohio unemployment figures from August were 6.5 percent in Summit County and 6.8 percent in Ohio.
While the unemployment rate dropped, the effects of the recession from 2007 to 2009 are still being seen as state jobless figures show there remain fewer people at work in Ohio now than in the past. People who are out of work are counted as unemployed only if they are actively seeking a job.
“Hiring veterans is good for the economy,” said Munoz, who is the surviving spouse of an Army veteran.
“Not only does it help them but it helps all of us,” she said.
Munoz said it is not right to expect men and women to “raise their right hands and serve if we can’t get them meaningful work when they get back.”
She said each employer represented at the event was supposed to have at least five jobs available.
“I think probably 50 to 75 will enter some type of employment process” out of the job fair in Akron, she said, and about one-third of those in attendance will enter some part of the hiring process with an employer.
She estimated that more than 10,000 veterans have been hired in the Hiring Our Heroes program since it was initiated in 2011.
John Jones, human resources manager for GOJO Industries in Akron, was looking forward to talking to veterans at the Friday fair.
“We are continually trying to reach and attract talents from the veterans,” he said. “We do value our veterans and there are opportunities we can put them into.”
Marine veteran James Gregory, 54, of Cuyahoga Falls, who works as a “fine dining” chef, came to the conference in hopes of possible changing careers.
He said he has a chemical dependency counselor certificate and would like to do counseling or some other type of work.
“I want to change my venue,” he said.
Al Flegal, 54, of Ravenna, who was an Army helicopter mechanic, said he was recently laid off as a welder and machinist.
“People in the outside world don’t realize what a vet went through,” Flegal said at the job fair.
“The job market is tough, very tough,” he said.
Munoz said veterans have served their country and completed their missions of service and now is the time for employers to reach out and hire them.
One reason Bierlair said he went into the Army was he thought it would help him find work as a civilian. He served as a generator mechanic during his active duty enlistment. His Reserve enlistment ends in December.
“I’m really just looking for any opportunity,” he said.
For more on the Hiring Our Heroes program go online to www.uschamber.com/hiringourheroes.
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.