By Elaine Sanchez
Over the past year, veterans and military spouses have been invited to a host of career fairs across the nation that connect dozens of employers seeking to support the military community with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of job-seeking troops and spouses.
While face-to-face exposure is an asset, many career seekers aren’t able to attend these fairs, whether it’s due to distance, finances or life demands.
Hoping to fill this opportunity gap, organizations are forgoing local fairs in favor of online offerings. With the only potential barrier being Internet access, virtual career fairs and other online job resources are steadily gaining popularity.
Milicruit, a sponsor of virtual career fairs, hosted a national career fair in November that attracted about 80 employers and more than 30,000 job seekers.
They’ll host another nationwide virtual career fair for service members, veterans and military spouses Feb. 23 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. EST.
In this fair, veterans and military spouses will have access to about 27,000 jobs, Kevin O’Brien, Milicruit spokesman, said. Military career seekers will have the opportunity to meet and interact with recruiters and hiring managers from dozens of military friendly employers.
The company also will offer some resume-writing advice in a virtual resume workshop Feb. 16 from 4 to 7 p.m. EST, according to a news release. Employers will be online to review resumes and provide guidance on designing a civilian resume.
Milicruit also has more than 20 regional career fairs planned throughout 2012. People can find out more on the site’s event calendar.
Also aimed at the virtual front, through the Defense Department’s Military Spouse Employment Partnership, employers have direct access to job-seeking spouses, and spouses can connect with long-term employment opportunities. MSEP, launched last year, partners with local, national and international businesses to foster job opportunities.
In a blog last month, Robert L. Gordon III, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy, noted the site’s success. In just six months, the program has partnered with nearly 100 employers. And as of mid-January, nearly 60,000 jobs were listed on MSEPJobs.com. Since June 2010, more than 10,400 spouses have found employment through the MSEP program.
Gordon noted the site is undergoing a design overhaul to enhance functionality. The site will have a resume builder function and provide email alerts when the job seeker is matched to a job posting.
“With your help, we will build on this momentum as we move into 2012 to make MSEP an even more effective tool in empowering our military spouses to find jobs and career opportunities,” he wrote.
Connecting veterans and spouses with jobs is one of the primary objectives of the White House’s Joining Forcescampaign. Launched by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, last year, this campaign calls on Americans to better support troops, veterans and their families.
In November, the first lady announced that a range of businesses plan to hire 100,000 veterans and military spouses by 2014. She noted the Veterans Jobs Bank hosts more than 550,000 job postings from military-friendly employers.
“This commitment of 100,000 jobs isn’t about making headlines,” she said in a Joining Forces blog. “These wonderful programs don’t just provide a good opportunity for a press conference. All of these efforts are about upholding our sacred duty to our veterans and their families.”
At the time, 16,000 veterans and spouses had found new positions since Joining Forces launched, the blog said.
More recently, President Barack Obama outlined his Veterans Job Corps initiative to hire veterans to replenish the ranks of the nation’s first responders. He also noted the progress that’s already been made.
“Already, we’ve helped 600,000 veterans and their family members go back to school on the Post-9/11 GI Bill,” he said Feb. 3. “We’ve hired over 120,000 veterans to serve in the federal government, [and] we’ve made it easier for veterans to access all sorts of employment services.”
Additionally, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been steadily working toward its goal of hosting 100 hiring fairs within a year. Last month, the chamber hosted its first military-spouse-only hiring fair, which brought together more than 100 employers and more than 1,000 military spouses.
“As companies large and small have shown, the private sector has enormous capacity to help our troops, veterans and families,” Navy Capt. Brad Cooper, executive director of Joining Forces, recently told me. “The people of this great nation clearly want to help – people want to have impact. Everywhere we’ve turned, and with every company we’ve asked to step up, the answer has been ‘yes.’”