Georgetown resident Taylor Helm hasn’t held a full-time job in about two years.
The 57-year-old U.S. Air Force veteran said he’s been able to make ends meet only by taking the occasional part-time or temporary minimum wage jobs.
“I’ve been scraping on that and what little savings I have, because I’m not eligible to receive by military pension for another two years,” he said. “I’m what you would call under-employed, although I go out looking for work about five or six days a week. What I really want is something full time with benefits.”
Helm was one of about 200 military veterans and active-duty personnel who attended a job fair at Milford High School on Friday.
The four-hour event sponsored by Delaware’s congressional delegation featured nearly 40 prospective employers, as well as a resume and interview preparation workshop hosted by Job Centers @ Delaware Libraries. The delegation sponsored a similar job fair in Middletown earlier this month.
“I love matching people up and this is a little like the Matching Game,” U.S. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) said at the start of Friday’s event. “The idea is to put job seekers and employers together, and hopefully, some magic and chemistry will happen between them here today.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics website, the national unemployment rate for all veterans was at 6.9 percent in July, down from 8.6 percent a year earlier. However, younger veterans are facing a tough challenge in the job market, with 8.9 percent of those who served after Sept. 11, 2001 out of work as of last month, compared to 12.4 percent a year ago.
Several of those in attendance at Friday’s job fair were recent veterans and active-duty personnel, many of whom said they were planning for the future.
“I’m part time in the Army National Guard and will be deployed in Afghanistan next summer,” said 21-year-old Houston resident Wykeem Bryant. “I came here because I know it’s going to be difficult for a lot of us when we come back to mortgages and bills without having a job lined up. My training is in information technology and computer networking, but I’m not picky. I’m interested in anything that will pay the rent.”
David Patterson, a human resources manager with American Registry of Pathology in Camden, said he’s living proof that veterans can find gainful employment at job fairs like the one in Milford on Friday.
“I’m a Delaware National Guard veteran and I got this job by attending a job fair at [Delaware Technical Community College]’s Terry Campus in 2011,” he said. “The jobs we have to offer require a highly-technical set of skills and require degrees in the sciences, but a lot of veterans have training in those fields and we can help direct them to the type of coursework they might need.”
Representatives from several other employers also said veterans’ military training help to make them promising job candidates.
“We’re looking to fill some of our crew leader positions and we know veterans are reliable, can adapt to different environments and are committed to working hard,” said Jacki Servoni, the director of marketing and recruiting for Sposato Landscaping in Milton.
U.S. Navy veteran Barry Koch said he found several exciting job prospects at Friday’s event.
“I’ve picked up contact information from four employers that I plan to send my resume to,” the Dagsboro resident said. “I’ve mostly searched in the area that I already know, which is building materials, but I’m also open to jobs I might not be immediately qualified for. I’m certainly willing to learn if they’ll give me the chance.”