MANATEE -- Young veterans need just as much help as their elder counterparts finding jobs, and an expansive job fair next week is enlisting more than 80 employers and organizations to help.
Suncoast Workforce is partnering with Goodwill Manasota and the Patterson Foundation's Legacy of Valor campaign to provide a place where veterans and their families can both find work and find help. The free jobs and service fair is set for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 7 at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota.
But there is plenty for veterans to do before they walk up and ask for a job.
Stuart Taube, a veterans outreach specialist at Suncoast Workforce, is one of the first faces veterans will see when trying to adjust to the civilian workforce at the local jobs agency, 1112 Manatee Ave. E. While Suncoast Workforce helps veterans ranging from age 21 to 90, it's those just exiting the military who are the hardest to reach -- and the ones who need coaching.
"We're trying to get a handle on all the newly released military -- it's not always every easy. We get some information from the VA and the state information, but usually the information is out of date," said Taube. He served during the Persian Gulf War in the U.S. Army, with an expertise in counterintelligence.
Once he does find the new veterans, he sees if they either need a support agency or coach them for the workforce.
"Most veterans you'll find either enter service right out of high school or while entering college and really don't have any exposure other than some part-time jobs before entering the military," Taube said. "You'll find them creating a resume and putting all the medals on it and acronyms. You've got to help them make a transition and basically take the combat boots off the resume."
A jobs website, like ONetOnline.org, provides a tool where veterans can put in
military codes that will be translated into civilian terms for job descriptions, abilities and qualifications that can be written on a resume, he said.
Some of the employers that frequently use Suncoast Workforce to find veterans include Star 2 Star Communications, Air Products and Chemicals, and New England Machinery.
There are certain innate qualities veterans have that are attractive to employers.
"These are people who know how to get up in the morning, they know how to report to work. They're not riding sick calls, so-to-speak," Taube said. "They have leadership traits. They're mission-oriented, they get in there, don't BS and get the job done. There's a lot of traits that the average worker coming out of school don't have. Once they have a taste, they usually want more."
Some of those skills will be offered at a special veterans job preparedness workshop from 2 to 4 p.m. Wednesday at Suncoast Workforce's Sarasota Career Center, 3660 N. Washington Blvd., Sarasota. The same services are offered at the Bradenton office as well if veterans can't make it to Sarasota.
At Goodwill Manasota, the job connection centers also help veterans with resume writing, job search, filling out applications and staff will also follow up with employers on progress, said Yen Reed, spokeswoman for Goodwill Manasota.
"We really hand-hold them throughout the entire process, and it also depends on the person we're helping," she said, adding that jobs were the No. 1 request for help out of the 330 veterans the organization helped in 2013.
Veterans can walk into any office, free of charge, to get help and will be directed to the right office in the area based on needs, Reed said.
Taube wants the younger veterans to know there is a support system there and it's hard to get your affairs together alone. Many returning veterans aren't joining groups like the American Legion or Disabled American Veterans clubs where they have somewhere to meet and talk to, and instead rely on finding help online and social media. And that doesn't always work.
Next week's fair will also have community-based organizations and veterans-based organizations that can help with addiction, homelessness, mental illness and other health care to help them get their affairs in order before they can become job ready, Taube said.
On the flip side, there is education for employers, too, to understand not all veterans have stress disorders from combat.
"A lot of them are also scared employers will relate PTSD to them," Taube said. "A lot of people think when you're over there, they automatically think you have PTSD."
In a lot of ways, veterans are finding challenges like everyone else, said Joshua Matlock, business services director for Suncoast Workforce.
"They will have the same challenges anyone will have navigating this very competitive jobs market today," he said. "For every open position, there are several hundred people who are competing for the same position. It's a matter of demonstrating your value and what value you bring to the business. Being able to communicate that takes some skill."
Suncoast Workforce is also trying to communicate programs for employers to use that will help veterans. One program offers to pay half of the veteran's salary for up to six months for on-the-job training, and 30 to 40 businesses in the area use that grant, Matlock said.
"Even if they move to another company, great -- we still have them in the community in an environment where businesses have the workforce to be successful," he said.
Charles Schelle, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.