Matthew Rinehart has a decision to make. He could re-enlist in the Marine Corps, or he could decide to take the skills he’s learned and apply them in a new civilian career.
And, he has just a couple of days to decide.
That’s the reason he came out to the the NCWorks Career Center Veterans’ Job Fair and Career Expo Tuesday at the American Legion in Jacksonville.
“I have until Friday to decide if I’m signing my re-enlistment papers, so coming out here doesn’t hurt me,” Rinehart said of the job fair. “It’s a good opportunity for a lot of Marines who haven’t put a lot of thought to getting out. They just get so focused on getting out that they forget that food costs money, and they need a career when they get out.”
One of the first booths that got Rinehart’s attention was Associated Training Services, which helps train heavy equipment operators.
“For me, it’s really interesting to see a lot of careers that I wouldn’t normally think about, being a satellite communications technician,” Rinehart said. “Something like being a crane operator, whether it’s for me or not, I have some guys who are getting out that would like that information as well as to have it for myself.”
About 70 employers took part in the event. Career options included various sectors such as sales, general labor, government, police and firefighters, retail and medical services.
Cliff Wilkins, regional employment consultant for human resources with the N.C. Department of Public Safety, said he attended the job fair to recruit correctional officers and nurses. He said starting salaries ranged from $33,000 to $50,000 and cited a shortage of nurses within the department.
“People talk about government work, but it’s a career that is very satisfying,” Wilkins said. “The opportunity to serve others is very rewarding.”
Wilkins served in the Army for 28 years and said he looked around for a couple of years before settling in as a civilian.
“I know that coming out of the military can be difficult to transition,” he said.
Some of those difficulties may involve finding the right job, which was the reason behind the job fair, said Archie Barrow, director of veteran employment services for the N.C. Department of Commerce.
“About 12,000 veterans transition to the civilian workforce every year,” Barrow said. “We want to keep them here to help the state grow.”
He said the unemployment rate among veterans is about 3.1 percent, slightly less than the overall state unemployment rate of 3.6 percent.
“Everybody wants to hire veterans because they know that they are well trained, they’re loyal, they’re motivated, and they’re going to do the work,” Barrow said.
John Seegars, vice president of Seegars Fence Company, said the company appreciates the veterans it hires.
“We have a shortage in the workforce, and we appreciate the veterans and what they’ve done for the country,” Seegars said. “We had a retired Army colonel consult with us about the transition coming out of the military and into the civilian workforce. We didn’t realize how hard that can be for some people, so we wanted to reach our hand out, grab a hold of them and create an environment that really speaks to veterans. Our benefits package coincides with the military model, so it helps them want to come on board with us in that we provide a safe, good place to work that offers the same benefits they’re used to.”
Veteran David Pryor said his wife suggested that he come out to the job fair.
“It’s great and nice to have something geared toward Jacksonville,” Pryor said. “I’m just kind of seeing what’s available. I was looking for a high-end technical position.”
Andrew Winzeler, an active-duty Marine, said he’s not quite ready to get out of the military but attended the job fair to explore his options.
“It gives a chance to a lot of Marines and Sailors who are getting out the opportunity to see the kinds of jobs they are qualified for and what they can do,” Winzeler said. “It helps qualified people learn where they can go and use the skills they acquired in the military.”