Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif. --
Jason Dickson spent 15 years in uniform serving his country, first as a Marine then as a law enforcement officer. Now, he’s hoping to put his leadership skills to use in the business world.
The Twentynine Palms veteran was among 157 men and women who attended the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Chamber Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes Job Fair on Aug. 16 at the Fantasy Springs Special Events Center in Indio.
A business management student since leaving his job as a civilian police officer aboard the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center last year, Dickson visited 56 of the 57 employer booths at the job fair.
“I didn’t think I’d look good in a pink Cadillac,” he joked about why he bypassed the Mary Kay cosmetics booth.
On a serious note, “There wasn’t one booth that I didn’t find interesting or couldn’t see myself working with that company,” Dickson said. He left his resume at several booths and submitted multiple applications in hopes of getting hired at a firm event before he graduates from National University next September.
Hiring Our Heroes is a nationwide program launched in March 2011 to pair military veterans and their spouses looking for work with potential employers through job fairs like the one held in Indio.
Dick Castner, executive director of the U.S. Chamber’s Western Regional Office in Woodland Hills, said the organization partners with national and local veterans organizations and business groups, like the Palm Desert Area Chamber of Commerce, which co-sponsored the hiring fair in Indio.
“The business community turns out the employers and veterans’ groups bring out our veterans,” he said. “Since the program began, we have more than 10,000 known hires.” The Indio job fair is one of 385 conducted or in the works across the country through the first quarter of 2013, Castner said.
The events center was bustling during the three-hour event as people moved from booth to booth, picking up information and applications, and chatting with representatives of potential employers ranging from casinos to utility companies, law enforcement agencies to retailers and hoteliers to financial planners.
Barbara deBoom, president and CEO of the Palm Desert Area Chamber of Commerce, said Coachella Valley businesses were joined by those from Los Angeles, Riverside and as far away as Bakersfield.
“It was a pretty big reach,” she said. Though the turnout was slightly less than the anticipated 200-plus, deBoom said local organizers were thrilled at the results.
“One guy walked out and he was skipping and saying, ‘I got a job! I got a job,’” she said. Thomas Cole, regional recruiting director for Airstreams Renewable Inc., a company that certifies people to work in the wind industry, came to the events center to find people to fill five open seats at the Tehacahpi, Calif.-based vocational school.
“With the (wind) turbines, we need guys who can climb and who are not afraid of heights,” Cole said, noting that companies in the field also like to hire veterans “because of their safety-first attitude.”
It took the former Navy corpsman just 45 minutes to fill the openings. The five are set to begin a five-week training program Aug. 27. Cole said once they’re certified, three are slated to work as instructors at Airstreams and the other two likely will go to work for Siemens, a global company that operates in the industrial, energy and health care sectors.
Dickson, who almost passed on the job fair because he’d never attended one and wasn’t sure if employers would have openings that fit his skill set, was excited afterward.
“I never realized that there are so many types of jobs out there, and the fact that these companies were giving us the opportunity first because they thought of us as heroes was amazing to me,” Dickson said. “I never thought of myself as a hero, just a man that served his country proudly.”
Going booth to booth paid off for Dickson; he landed an interview with TransAmerica Financial Advisors Inc., and was looking forward to exploring job opportunities with more potential employers.