Story by Angie Thorne on 08/01/2019By ANGIETHORNE
Guardian staff writer
FORT POLK, La. Finding a job is part preparation and part luck, but it's always challenging, especially in a tough job market. Military spouses probably know that better than anyone because they have to start from scratch in a new job market after every permanent change of station move.
That's why an event like the Military and Community Spouses Hiring Fair, held at Fort Polk's Child and Youth Services Gym, bldg 2070, July 26, is so important to the military community as a whole. The event hosted 30 employers and four service organizations on the hunt for good employees. A total of 126 job seekers attended the event. The day saw 93 resumes accepted, 63 interviews conducted and 30 tentative job offers made a new record for Fort Polk hiring events.
Dan Smith, senior manager for the Hiring Our Heroes Military Spouse Program, said in hard economic times, it's outstanding for an installation like Fort Polk to post these kinds of numbers.
"In fact, the Fort Polk hiring fair has had the highest military spouse preregistered job seeker numbers for the past three years," he said.
Smith said he couldn't be happier with the success of the job fair, in large part thanks to Fort Polk's Stacey Delgado, Employment Readiness Program manager, and her team at Fort Polk's Army Community Service.
"We received a lot of support when it came to organizing this event. Stacey and her team reached out to local chambers of commerce and employers willing to take part in the job fair and I think we've had a great turn out," he said.
Smith said it's essential to give spouses and transitioning Soldiers an opportunity to talk to employers and discover jobs that might be right for them.
"Job seekers show up at an event like this and may only plan to talk to one or two employers. But then they see all these other opportunities that they never would have had otherwise and their chances of finding a job expand exponentially," he said.
Col. Ryan K. Roseberry, Fort Polk garrison commander, said Fort Polk spouses are a treasured asset to the area.
"This is a diverse group of well educated individuals who have learned to manage stress and overcome the multiple challenges of being a military spouses. They are strong, dedicated, self assured, demonstrate loyalty and are premier employment candidates for the employers of Central Louisiana," he said.
Tanja Ortwein, a military spouse attending the fair, moved to Fort Polk recently from Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Ortwein had a child a few months ago and said she felt like she was ready to get back to work.
"I saw the information about the job fair on Facebook and decided to sign up to see what the fair had to offer," she said.
Ortwein said her employment background is in banking and insurance, but this is her first job fair and she was open to something different.
"I was a bit intimidated by all the employers, but after the first positive interview I realized I was having fun making new connections and discovering my options," she said.
As an employer attending the job fair, Leon Lagneaux, Amerisafe senior vice president of recruitment and development said his organization is a strong supporter of the military.
"We realize how difficult it must be for spouses to find a job when they have to move so often. We don't let that stop us from hiring them. We will take a military spouse for two or three years because we know we are going to get a quality employee, not to mention helping military families however we can," he said.
Sgt. Tyler Leye, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, said he is trying to find a job because he will be transitioning out of the military.
"I think this job fair is pretty cool. Trying to find a job can be difficult. I've been searching for a while now, so this is a great opportunity for me," he said. "I've talked to a couple of employers I'm interested in working for, but there are a lot more that I want to talk to. I'm excited to see what other opportunities the job fair offers.
Kassandra Coppola, spouse of Pvt. Ryan Coppola, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 509th Infantry Regiment, said she was tired of sitting at home with nothing to do so she attended the job fair to find work. Her experience is in the medical field, but she said she was open to other types of employment.
"The job fair is amazing. It showcases the jobs available in the area. You can't really find that kind of information online," she said.
Coppola said it's much better when employers come to you.
"It gives me a chance to get out and talk to the people that might hire me face to face in one place. I love that," she said.
Ryan was there to cheer Kassandra on as she went from one employer to the next.
"She left everything her job and family to be here (Fort Polk) for me. I came with her to encourage her in her efforts to find a job. I want to support her like she supports me every day. It's the least I can do," he said.
Sandra Herzog works for GC&E Systems Group, an IT company that has a contract on Fort Polk providing services to the installation. Herzog said a fair like this is helpful in finding employees when they have job openings.
"We like to support the Fort Polk community by filling those jobs with former Soldiers and spouses. An event like this is helpful because it gives us access to a wide range of people from different backgrounds and experiences. That provides a multitude of opportunities for success ours as well as potential employee's," she said.
For more information about the military spouses professional network visit www.hiringourheroes.org/military-spouses-professional-network/.