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Sandy Journal

Utah employers happy to help train and transition veterans after service

May 01, 2017 02:24PM ● By Bryan Scott

Mark Harrison, program support specialist of the National Guard Employment Support Program. (Keyra Kristoffersen/City Journals)

By Keyra Kristoffersen | [email protected]

On March 23, the Sandy Expo Center hosted a job fair for veterans and members of the National Guard and Reserves. Ninety vendors from across the Wasatch Front were provided a free space through various veterans services and the Utah Department of Workforce Services to help provide employment and life opportunities to service members.

Marlene Mayl said farewell to the Air Force on Sept. 1, 2016 after 24 years of service and has been trying to find her niche ever since. Mayl left Virginia and currently works at the US Department of Veterans Affairs in Salt Lake City while working to finish her degree in business management with an emphasis in human resources. She is looking to get her foot in the door.

"I would love to work in a healthcare setting in human resources. I think I've talked to some very good potentials. I think they've done an excellent job of advertising the job fair. This has been excellent,” said Mayl. “The hardest thing about transitioning out of the military has been the money, it's been a big pay cut.”

Some companies have been facing difficulties in the current economy but have found ways to still help veterans find employment.

"We have a hiring freeze right now, but we have a few exceptions so we're allowed to hire maintainers for aircraft. There are 13 occupations that we have a really high demand for and critical shortages and that's why we're here today, to gather resumes from veterans and try to assist them in finding a civilian job or, in some cases, in the private sector because anyone who has sacrificed and served, that is our ideal candidate,” said Joyce Peters of Hill Air Force Base. “These are our favorite candidates. There are all kinds of talent here and we're going to try to connect with it. You don't just stop repairing aircraft.” 

In 2011, the Utah Patriot Partnership program was created to incentivize companies to hire veterans and members of the National Guard and Reserve first in order to assist them to find employment that best met their previous skills, training and education from the military. The program distinguishes employers as a Utah Patriot Partner through the governor's office and Department of Workforce Services as well as helping to match them with veteran job candidates.

They understand the sacrifices these men and women make,” said Mark Harrison, program support specialist of the National Guard Employment Support Program. “We try to get a diverse group of employers and not just entry-level positions. They’re willing to work knowing that some of our guys and gals come back with some difficulties. They want to see them succeed and get back on their feet.”

"Veterans can do so much more and that kind of culture, that kind of environment can always grow, but that's one of those talent groups that it takes a veteran to realize the value of the veteran, to be able to decipher the background, decipher the knowledge and the mentality of the mission first mindset that we always need," said Chris Dominguez of Vivant, a smart home and security services provider throughout the United States and Canada.

Some companies create in-house programs and internships to help train former members of the military how to best present themselves to potential employers. 

"We help them with the transitioning from the military to the civilian type of jobs. We look at their skills and qualifications and try to find where they would be a good fit. We provide them with a lot of networking opportunities and push them to do a lot of interviews. We help them with their resume, their interviewing skills, their 30-second commercial so they can introduce themselves. Within the three months, our job, my goal is to help them find a full-time job, and the program has been very successful," said Margarita Angelo who works with the Military Internship Program for Zions Bank.

The internship program began over five years ago with groups of 10 interns, held twice a year in April and September. Due to budget cuts, the number of veteran interns had to drop down to five but with the extension of the program to the corporation, they are hoping to return to 10 spots this April.

Dezaray Allred, who served in the Army National Guard for eight years, was one of the first interns and has now been with Zions Bank for five years. Her resume and ability to sell her skills to interviewers was one of the skills she felt she needed the most help with and got it.

"I loved it. It was a fantastic program,” said Allred. “It really helps military personnel to transition."

The next veterans job fair will be held May 10 at the Davis Conference Center in Layton.