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Seattle employers compete for job seekers leaving the military

The unemployment rate for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continues to decline but it remains stubbornly above the rate for other job seekers. (KIRO Radio/Tim Haeck)

The unemployment rate for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continues to decline but it remains stubbornly above the rate for other job seekers. Still, some employers think veterans have the right skills for their jobs.

Veterans and employers made connections at a special job fair in Seattle Thursday, including Seattle-area native Bryant Spreine, who wants to trade his job for a civilian career after six years in the Navy. “There’s a lot of big name people here, Microsoft’s here, Amazon’s here, Prudential. To me, it looks like I have a good chance of finding something.”

The job fair was sponsored by Microsoft and produced by RecruitMilitary, a for-profit company run by veterans that organizes job fairs for veterans across the U.S. The employers with booths at the Seattle Center job fair appreciate the value of job-seekers with a military background.

“We can send military people to a company all the time but if that company has a civilian hiring manager who doesn’t know how to match those skill sets up, then it’s really hard,” said Mike Rollins with RecruitMilitary.

Companies like Home Depot have been recruiting military for years.

“We’re very big on our veteran partnership,” said recruiter Chris Reed. “We’ve prided ourselves on that since we were founded in 1979 and we know that it can be hard sometimes to make that transition from the military to the workforce but we’ve done very good in helping veterans with that.”

Reed said the military life is great training for jobs at Home Depot.

“This time of the year we’re under a lot of pressure, it’s our heaviest time of the year for sales, for traffic so you have to be able to multi-task, to prioritize and make sure that our customers are being taken care of and that’s what they know,” explained Reed.

In fewer words, “someone who’s received the discipline and training of a military veteran,” said Spreine.

Jeri Luke, with toddler in arms, watched with interest as her partner, an Army veteran, browsed the employer booths in search of job opportunities. He was looking for a computer job after programming mortar rounds in the infantry.

“A lot of people assume that in the military, they only learn one job and then that’s all they know, but it’s not, it’s a very vast knowledge they learn in the military,” she explained. “They can cover a lot of stuff.”

Microsoft’s Joe Wallace has been recruiting ex-military job seekers for about three years.

“We do have people who work on Microsoft networks in the military, they do cyber-security, they do supply chain, I mean there’s a lot of different opportunities that we have at Microsoft that match what people are currently doing in the military,” Wallace said.

“I’m 100 percent sure that the training I received will translate to any number of jobs here,” declared Spreine. “I think the professionalism of the military will,” agreed Coast Guardsman Bobby Beckland, who still has one year left on his enlistment.

Microsoft’s Wallace said it’s not just specific military skills they covet, it’s intangibles such as leadership and loyalty. Added Reed: “They’re great workers who’ve done well for their country and they’ll do well for us.”

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