Cities focus on services for vets
By Matt Roy
Local leaders and national organizations are working to help military veterans and their families in Arizona.
One group will host a special job fair for vets and their spouses later this month in Glendale; while municipalities across the Valley have stepped up their efforts to address the unique needs of those who’ve nobly served their country.
Disabled American Veterans and RecruitMilitary will host the Phoenix Veterans Job Fair 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 19 at State Farm Stadium, 1 Cardinals Drive, Glendale.
The free event is aimed at veterans, military spouses, transitioning military, National Guard members and reservists, as well as dozens of companies eager to hire them.
Chris Stevens retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1999 before joining Bradley-Morris Inc. and RecruitMilitary, where he is a senior vice president. In the decades since, the group has helped many thousands of veterans find gainful work, he said.
“We’re working with military veterans and spouses and matching them up with clients that are coming in,” Mr. Stevens said. “Right now, we’re at about 66 companies coming in and 325 military veterans have preregistered.”
With more than a week to go, he hopes to see as many as 75 companies participating with up to 450 preregistered attendees. Vets can just show up and register on-site, too, Mr. Stevens said.
RecruitMilitary conducts more than 130 such events every year across the country to help vets find good jobs after military service. The group has held 30 job fairs in Phoenix so far, drawing 12,240 attendees and 1,438 exhibitors, according to a press release published earlier this week.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the unemployment among veterans in Arizona was at 3.9%, based on 2016 data.
Their 2018 data revealed 326,000 unemployed vets nationwide — 54% were age 25-54; 40% were 55 and over; and 6% were age 18-24.
The most common career fields for men leaving the military are management, transportation, sales, installation and repairs, and protective services.
For women veterans, the top fields include office work, health care, management, finance and sales.
While unemployment among veterans is low right now, many still benefit from the extra help, Mr. Stevens suggested.
“The unemployment rate for military veterans is at a historical low at about 3.4%,” he said. “That landscape changes throughout the years and we’ve had double-digit unemployment before. But there has never been a higher regard for military veterans and spouses ever in the history of the United States until now.”
But, Mr. Stevens said, despite favorable conditions, many who leave the military service may have little or no experience with any other types of employers.
Having joined the U.S. Air Force at age 17, when he retired he had no outside job or job-seeking experience whatsoever. His organization hopes to prepare those in similar situations to seek career opportunities outside the military, Mr. Stevens said.
“What we do is prepare military veterans and spouses to be successful at a job fair and an interview. We help them with their resume and so forth because it’s a very strange landscape for them out there,” he said.
The cities of Scottsdale and Surprise are two examples of Valley municipalities, which have recently sharpened their focus on serving veterans.
In July, Scottsdale City Council voted to create the Scottsdale Veterans Advisory Commission, a panel comprised of citizen volunteers, who will advise the council on veteran programs, policies and practices.
They group will also serve as a community connection point for veterans and the community, according to a report published in the Scottsdale Independent.
The seven-member panel — which will include at least five members who have served in the military or who work for veteran-supporting organizations — was charged with developing and submitting a list of objectives and a work plan for council consideration within six months.
The Surprise City Council in January moved to create the Veterans, Disability and Human Service Commission at the panel’s Jan. 15 City Council regular meeting at Surprise City Hall, 16000 N. Civic Center Plaza.
Vice Mayor Roland Winters explained the purpose of the new group, which he said combines expertise from three service areas.
“For some folks who are not familiar with this commission, this is something that council decided to do … to involve the veterans in this commission,” Mr. Winters said.
“This is why we decided to involve three different segments of our citizenry — the veterans, the disability commission, which was decommissioned to form this commission, and the human services commission.”
The new commission helps develop and expand city programs for veterans, as well as those with special needs or who need more access to human services and workforce development, city officials said.
The volunteer commission meets 6-8 p.m. tonight in Council Chambers at Surprise City Hall.
City officials will also honor veterans when they host the 5th Annual Veterans Day Parade 10-11:30 a.m. Monday, Nov. 11 at the Surprise Recreation Campus, 15960 N. Bullard Ave., Surprise.
The well-attended event is free to the public; city officials are still accepting applications for groups who wish to participate, including bands, color guards, drill and marching units, public service organizations and floats.
A parade application is available to download at the city’s website, surpriseaz.gov.