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Wright-Patt job fair attracts hundreds

Master Sgt. Brian Roberts hopes his 24 years in the Air Force translate to a job with a civilian employer.

The Fairborn resident was among hundreds of job seekers Wednesday at a Wright-Patterson Air Force Base-organized job fair inside the Nutter Center at Wright State University. More than 85 employers from insurance and aerospace firms to truck driving companies and government agencies filled booths hunting for potential new hires.

Roberts, 42, plans to retire early next year. The airman’s dilemma: How to explain in clear terms what he does at the Air Force Institute of Technology, where he’s a superintendent of student services and handles mostly administrative tasks.

“It has been difficult,” he said. “What I do on a day-to-day basis is hard to put to words, hard to put on paper on a resume.” He had contacted six employers, with no responses, but with more job search attempts on the horizon.

“My best hope is I get an interview and I can explain what I do in more depth,” he said.

Post-9/11 veterans had an average unemployment rate of 12.8 percent in Ohio last year compared to 7.6 percent for veterans of all eras, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Statewide, the average unemployment rate was 6.9 percent for non-veterans, the federal agency reported.

Translating troops’ skills into terms civilian employers can relate to is a hurdle many airmen face when leaving the service. Pending U.S. Senate legislation, sponsored by Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, would give service members more information on earning a civilian credential to match their training and expand a Defense Department pilot credentialing program to include information technology.

Other skills learned in the military are more clear cut to explain and easy to sell.

Master Sgt. Russell Maxwell, 38, a C-17 Globemaster III jet engine mechanic at Wright-Patterson, said employers aggressively courted him when he passed the job fair booths in uniform.

“They like the education, experience and leadership that we’ve had,” the Tipp City resident said. With his aviation maintenance background, the 20-year career airmen doesn’t expect he’ll have trouble finding a job when he retires.

Some career fields were begging for workers. U.S. Xpress, Inc., a Chattanooga, Tenn.-based trucking firm, offers service members and veterans incentives of two years seniority and two years higher on the initial pay scale to fill a massive nationwide shortage of truck drivers, said field recruiter JoAnne Hibner.

Those with a Class A commercial driver’s license earn starting salaries of $40,000 to $58,000 a year, she said.

“We need drivers,” she said. “Lots of drivers. … If I could hire a hundred today, I’d hire a hundred tomorrow.”

The twice-a-year job fair has attracted twice the number of job seekers since relocating to Wright State from Wright-Patterson three years ago and opening the doors to the public to attend, said Alvin Dennis, job fair coordinator. Some 1,200 attended in April.

Job seeker Gerry Jarratt, 61, of New Carlisle, is a certified nurse’s aide in home health care industry, but the former Internal Revenue Service worker wants to return to a career with the government.

“I would say a government job is more secure and there’s real training,” she said, as she surveyed employers at the fair. “I really think they try to put their best forward to keep you in the job.”

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