Hiring Our Heroes event helps military veterans, spouses find jobs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - On Wednesday, the University of Phoenix – Kansas City will host a job fair geared specifically for our nation’s heroes and their spouses.

Hiring Our Heroes is a program from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce dedicated to helping military veterans and their spouses find jobs; NBC News is a partner of the program.

The unemployment rate among veterans is low at nearly 10 percent among post-9/11 veterans. It’s even lower for those same veterans who are younger than 25 at nearly 30 percent.

“When veterans return home, they're not looking for a job, they're looking for a career,” Robert Armbrust said, Director of Academic Affairs at the University of Phoenix – Kansas City. “They want to start that civilian career and get into something they have a passion for, move forward and grow that career over their lifetime.”

Stephen Miller joined the United States Air Force right out of high school because he wasn’t quite ready for college. He hadn’t expected to spend the next 20 years of his life serving his country. He retired nine years ago as a Master Sergeant.

His skills center primarily on aviation safety and maintenance.

“I've had a handful of interviews but with my skill set, it's not that huge in this area,” he said.

Plus, Miller said, his age may be a factor as well. He’s 47 years old and said he believes some employers may be hesitant to hire someone like him.

“You want to find something that you enjoy doing, that you fit into well,” he said.

Tom Collins retired as a Colonel with the Army. Most recently, he worked at the U.S. Pentagon in Washington D.C. in communications. He is new to the Kansas City area.

“My wife is from KC and I've been telling her for 20 plus years that when I'm done, we'll come here,” he said. “It's all about networking and it's been a little slow. I'm just not that well connected in the town.”

Collins plans to focus on networking at the Hiring Our Heroes event Wednesday.

Since the program started in March 2011, Hiring Our Heroes has held more than 700 job fairs across the country. As a result, 23,000 veterans and their spouses are now employed.

Wednesday’s event at the University of Phoenix will begin at 8:30 a.m., with workshops to train veterans on networking, creating a resume and other job hunting tools.

The job fair is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and all military veterans and their spouses are invited to attend. You are encouraged to dress professionally and bring copies of your resume.

“Be prepared to get in front of those employers, show them what you know, show them what you can do, show them those skills that you have,” Armbrust said.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and NBC News have also launched numerous online tools to help military families through the transition to civilian life. To learn more about Hiring Our Heroes, visit www.hiringourheroes.org. For extra resources from NBC News, visit www.heroesgethired.org.

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