Valencia College Hosts ‘Paychecks for Patriots’ Job Fair for Veterans

Orlando — Dozens of employers, ranging from Home Depot to Lockheed Martin, came to Valencia College’s West Campus on Wednesday, July 16, to participate in a veterans job fair.

Called “Paychecks for Patriots,” the job fair is part of a statewide effort to help veterans and their spouses find jobs.

From Lockheed Martin, which is hiring engineers and accountants, to Lake Mechanical Contractors, which is searching for pipefitters and project managers, many employers came looking for veterans with skills.

“There’s a lot of construction going on in the Orlando area right now, so good tradespeople are hard to come by,” said Ron Bates, human resources director at Lake Mechanical Contractors, a Eustis-based plumbing and air-conditioning contractor.  Veterans with experience as plumbers, welders or pipefitters would make ideal job candidates, he said.

west-veterans-job-fair3For 31-year-old veteran Phuc Truong, the job fair was the perfect chance to search for a job. The Air Force veteran, who served aboard an aircraft carrier, is now working part-time in an information technology job. What he’d like to find, he said, is a full-time job in IT.  He ticked off the firms he’d already spoken  to, including Lockheed Martin and Cole Engineering. “I’m hopeful,” Truong said.

But a number of employers said they were willing to train veterans for new jobs. They’re searching for veterans, they said, because they have demonstrated that they have discipline and a good work ethic.

At Wizard Connection, an Orlando special events contractor, general manager J.C. Fisher is searching for employees who can work with a hotel or convention group,  set up an event and break it down within 24 hours — while making the client happy and not damaging doors or walls as they set up and take down gear. “We move in like a team of Navy SEALS — we’re in and out and no one has seen us,” Fisher said. “But this is a physical job. It’s a unique individual who can jump into this business, which is why the military is a good fit.”

At a table manned by recruiters for Dollar General Store, district manager Billy Petrie had spoken to more than a dozen veterans about management opportunities within the company.

“Veterans are great for us,” said Petrie, who started his career in the company’s management training program. “What transfers well for us from the military is the routine. You get up, you open the store, you manage people and keep track of product. It’s a routine.”And the company, which has more than 50 stores in Central Florida and a distribution center in Ocala, is well known for promoting from within, Petrie added.

“We’ve gotten a lot of interest from veterans or their wives today,” Petrie said. “The thing I hear all the time is: ‘I shop there a lot. But I didn’t realize I could make a career of it.’ ”

west-veterans-job-fair2United Parcel Service hires about 5,000 vets each year. And though most of those veterans start out as package handlers, some start out as truck drivers. “Vets have experience with fuel tanks and semis, so they may start out as truck drivers,” said Natalie Starr, a UPS recruiter. “Plus, the work schedule and environment that we have at UPS  is similar to the military. It’s high-intensity.”

For veteran Ruben Gutierrez, the job fair was a chance to see how his skills could translate to a better job.  Gutierrez, who served in the Navy as an electronic repair technician, currently repairs copiers and printers.  But he’s searching for a full-time job working as a technician in a field that complements his skillset.  “I’m talking to several of the companies here to see if they have something that fits my skills,” Gutierrez said.