TAMPA, Florida --It's a boots-on-the-ground approach to helping veterans find jobs, with40 companies and 300 service members brought together in Tampa through the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation initiativeHiring Our Heroes.
In a packed room at Ragan Park Community Center, Harrison Helms has a stack of resumes and a lot of enthusiasm at the free Helping Our Heroes job fair. He's served in the Army for 15 years and is now lookingto apply his experience to an IT job, from help desk support to database administration.
"With my orders coming to an end in June, and me not having a civilian job -- I haven't had one since 1998 -- it's kind of important for me to be able to get out and see what's available," he says.
In less than two years, "Hiring Our Heroes" says it's helped more than 18,000 veterans and military spouses find work. The unemployment rate for veterans overall is 7.1 percent, less than the national average. For post-9/11 veterans though, it's 9.2 percent.
"I'm a veteran myself, so to have the opportunity to work with these men and women and their spouses, to provide opportunities for them, is extremely rewarding on my end," says Ernie Lombardi, Southeast Regional Associate with theU.S. Chamber of Commerce. "It's the best. It really is the best."
It's the bestfor Harrison, too, who says the number of opportunities at the Hiring Our Heroes job fairsurprised him.
"Hopefully, I'll walk away in the next couple months with a job," he says.