About 400 Sailors, veterans and spouses looking for employment attended a July 10 job fair at Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC), Port Hueneme — and only companies that had positions immediately available were invited.
“Hiring Our Heroes,” held at Duke’s Place, was a joint venture of the U.S. Navy’s Shipmates to Workmates program — which helps Sailors caught in the current military drawdown find jobs — the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other federal, state and local agencies.
More than 50 companies needing workers sent representatives to the fair to collect resumes and conduct preliminary interviews. Among them were Quest Diagnostics, Haas Automation, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department and San Miguel Produce in Oxnard.
Marisa Stubbs, a senior staffing specialist for Quest Diagnostics, said her company has more than 150 openings. Drivers, lab assistants and phlebotomists are needed, and there are jobs available in customer service and billing, some of them at managerial levels. Most of the jobs are in West Hills, Valencia, Cypress and San Juan Capistrano.
She was enthusiastic about the prospect of hiring people with a military background.
“We have a lot of veterans already,” she said. “Some have moved high up after starting in minimum-wage positions.”
She said the military helps create an employee who shows up on time, is presentable and respectable and who follows directions but still asks questions when necessary.
Jo Ann Olivares, human resources director for San Miguel Produce, was looking for all that plus some specific skill sets.
“We need people who have experience driving heavy equipment,” she said. “We need forklift drivers, and we have a big shipping department, so we need truck drivers who can go from our fields to the markets in Los Angeles.”
Equipment Operator 2nd Class Padraig Martin, with the Naval Facilities Expeditionary Logistics Center, talked at length with Olivares. The father of a 6-month old, he leaves the Navy Oct. 1 and wants to stay in the area. This was his first job fair.
“I have a lot of energy, and I’m motivated,” he said. “At this point, I’m looking for anyone who likes what I have to offer.”
Construction Electrician 2nd Class James Gomez of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 4 has another 18 months before he gets out of the Navy.
“I’m starting to plan now,” he said. “If I can stay in this area, fine, but I’m always open to going somewhere else.”
He’s doing all the right things, according to Cmdr. Pat Sanders, who runs the Shipmates to Workmates program out of Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, D.C.
Sanders said planning and flexibility are critical in this economic environment.
Of the Navy’s 108 rates, 31 are targeted for downsizing, Sanders said. Many are in aviation and construction.
That means Naval Base Ventura County, which united a naval air station and a construction battalion center, is getting hit hard, losing up to 70 Sailors, Sanders said. In all, the Navy is paring nearly 3,000 from the military rolls.
“Navy leadership is trying its best to help them have a soft landing,” Sanders said.
In the meantime, spouses and veterans are also trying to get jobs, leading to the partnership with Shipmates to Workmates and the creation of the “Hiring Our Heroes” job fairs, said Kathryn Poynton, deputy director of events and strategic outreach for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
More than 100 of the job fairs have been held so far, she said.
Some companies hire on the spot. Poynton said that in Rogers, Ark., Wal-Mart hired a Purple Heart recipient, and a commercial truck driving school hired 40 workers at another job fair.
That didn’t happen at NBVC. Many of the employers said job-seekers need to apply online; others reported a longer, more drawn-out process for an actual hiring to take place.
At the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office booth, background investigator Scott Van Tassell chatted with Utilitiesman 1st Class Joseph Rubino of the 31st Seabee Readiness Group about his qualifications.
Rubino wasn’t ready, though — he has another year left in the Navy before he gets out.
Van Tassell explained that a military background is especially helpful in law enforcement.
“They can help recruits who don’t have any military experience,” he said. “You can’t put a price on that.”
Did Van Tassell see anyone he would have hired that day?
“Sure did,” he said, watching Rubino get information at another booth. “He just walked away.”