On Oct. 23, dozens of local veterans and businesses met up at Pima Community College for the inaugural job fair of the Southern Arizona Veterans Workforce Initiative. Thirty veterans scheduled follow-up interviews with local aerospace and technology companies, and four veterans were offered jobs on the spot.
The Workforce Initiative, announced in September, is a veteran-hiring collaboration between the Tucson Metro Chamber of Commerce and Futures Inc., a tech company that developed the Initiative’s military-to-civilian jobs pipeline.
Local businesses at the job fair included: Caterpillar, AGM Container Controls, Caid Industries, Crest Insurance, Barker Contracting and Nextrio.
“We don’t usually do job fairs, but what attracted us was we knew we’d be working with pre-scanned, truly interested candidates,” said Cristie Street, CEO of Nextrio. “I think as far as job fairs go, this was a better evolution of the format.”
The job pipeline’s website is aerospacejobs.usmilitarypipeline.com. The site combines military occupation codes with civilians’ skills and certifications, also including factors like security clearances and military work experience. The site then matches the veteran or reserve member to jobs aligning to their expertise.
“I saw that the employers at the fair were very pleased with the matches that were made,” said Michael Guymon, vice president of the Tucson Metro Chamber. “One told me, ‘We’ve met with six individuals, and we’re gonna give job offers to them all.’”
Guymon says the Tucson Metro Chamber views this collaborative event as the future of job fairs.
“There was a 68 percent hiring rate,” Guymon said. “I definitely see that as a success.”
Nextrio employers were so impressed at the job fair, they extended secondary-interview offers to roughly half of the job-seeking veterans they spoke to.
“The likelihood they’ll get accepted for a job is pretty high once they get that second interview,” Street said.
While Nextrio is still in the process of job selection after the fair, they do have one veteran recently employed: Nicholas Andres Figueroa, a Marine Corps veteran and PCC student who spoke at the Tucson Metro Chamber’s initial press conference about the jobs pipeline.
“I’m proud to have served our country.” Figueroa said at the announcement of the Workforce Initiative. “But I was surprised at how hard it was to find a job in the civilian world. I discovered I’d need a degree and that technology jobs were the future.”
Street approached Figueroa as soon as she could, and asked him if he was prepared for a position at her company.
“He was on our staff by the time the job fair started,” Street said. “The military does an excellent job of being a first employer. A lot of those who come out of the military already know what they want to do next.”
While Guymon and the Tucson Metro Chamber are still planning what’s next for the Veterans Workforce Initiative, he says he could see hosting additional job fairs. However, he also says reorganizing the very nature of job fairs may be in effect.
“We haven’t had this type of hiring technology in the community until now,” Guymon said. “I think we can do a better job serving job seekers by consolidating efforts across the region.”
Although this job fair was directed toward aerospace and computer science jobs, the Tucson Metro Chamber hopes to expand the Veterans Workforce Initiative into other career fields, because of the versatility of veterans.
“At a job, we can teach technical knowledge, but what we can’t teach effectively are things like soft skills or discipline,” Street said. “I don’t have to explain to veterans how to be part of a team.”