DuPage job fair links unemployed veterans with job opportunities
Ignacio Galindo, a Marine corporal from Aurora talkswith State Police Sgt. Jose DeJesus last week at the Hiring Our Heroes military job fair at College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn. Another job fair for veterans is planned for Friday at Waubonsee Community Col
Updated: September 3, 2012 12:32PM
GLEN ELLYN — Hundreds of veterans came out July 26 in search of something that has eluded some since they left the service — a job.
The Hiring Our Heroes job fair, hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s National Chamber Foundation, brought 90 employers to the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn. The event was designed to help veterans and their spouses network with potential employers in many fields.
The veterans had a chance to talk with representatives from a wide range of companies, from giants like Coca-Cola and FedEx to smaller, more local companies.
Marilyn Mras, human resources manager for the Napa Auto Parts store at 700 Enterprise Court in Naperville, said she had personally been at four similar job fairs in the past year looking for new employees and that, in her opinion, “veterans deserve jobs.”
“Speaking on behalf of myself, we love hiring veterans and I feel this is a way to repay them for the service they provided for our country,” she said. “We currently are looking for a bilingual salesman to work here in Naperville as well as a couple of warehouse people and some counter sales people.”
Greg Rivara, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Employment Security, said providing job fairs for veterans “is one of the roles the IDES group fulfills.” He said the businesses appearing at the fair Thursday were vetted to make sure they “have legitimate employee needs.”
“The companies and agencies here today are looking for people right now, and we’ve seen people at these fairs hired right on the spot,” Rivara said.
That is why events like the one July 26 draw such big crowds, he said.
Rivara said that while overall statistics about unemployed vets mirror the rest of the population, with numbers hovering near 9 percent, the unemployment figure for vets up to 25 years old are more than three times as high.
“People in their late teens through mid-20s often haven’t looked for a job as yet that provides a living wage or they didn’t have a job they left before going into the service that they could reconnect with when they returned,” he said. “That’s why the numbers are so high.”
Cornel Thomas, an IDES employment representative, said DuPage County “is among the Chicagoland area’s fastest growing places for vets to live after returning from active service.” He said finding jobs for them is a true mission.
“I prefer to look at it as a challenge and as an inspiration,” Thomas said. “We need to go out and work as hard as possible to find opportunities for these people.”
Naperville resident Mark Scott, 20, a graduate of Neuqua Valley High School and a lance corporal in the Marine Corps Reserve, helped coordinate the event and hoped his presence “would provide some insight to vets that have come back.”
“I served in Iraq and am a Purple Heart recipient that was wounded in the leg,” Scott said. “The Chicago area continues to provide strong support for veterans and we’ve worked hard to get the word out about letting people know we’re here.”
That kind of effort is appreciated. Vets of all ages came looking for work Thursday, including Greg Tharrington, 57, who served years ago in the Marines. Tharrington said he “was open to almost any kind of job” given his age.
“I have visited with some companies today that need sales position, drivers, and also with some bus companies,” he said. “At my age, you have to be flexible about what you might do, but I’m trying to get back into the work force.”