Port Arthur job fair helps troops make transition

November 11, 2016 GMT

Mike Guillory’s time in the military taught him how to keep his cool and work with people of different backgrounds, skills he said help him with his job now as a corrections officer with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.

“Before going into the military, I didn’t like being around people,” said Guillory. “After being in the barracks with 50 guys, that changes.”

The Sheriff’s Office was one of 60 employers to set up a booth at the Texas Workforce Commission’s “Hiring Red, White and You! Veterans Job Fair” Thursday morning at the Robert A. “Bob” Bowers Civic Center in Port Arthur.

Guillory said this is the agency’s second year to take part in the fair. The Sheriff’s Office likes to hire veterans as corrections officers because they know how to “keep people in control,” he said.

The annual job fair, now in its fifth year, was created to match the skills that veterans learn in the military with local jobs, said Marilyn Smith, executive director of Workforce Solutions Southeast Texas, which covers Jefferson, Orange and Hardin counties.

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Smith said about 250 veterans attended the fair this year, which offered job leads for positions like teacher’s aides, corrections officers and maintenance workers.

“The key is trying to relate their skill sets from the military to civilian life,” said Smith.

She said the Texas Workforce Solutions started the annual job fair to address the increase in veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who needed jobs.

Henry Marte said he believes the skills he acquired in seven years in the military and seven years in the National Guard will translate well into a career in law enforcement.

Marte, a Port Arthur resident, listed discipline, structure and loyalty as some of the values he learned from the military.

“I know I can put someone before myself,” said Marte, 31.

Marte said he recently graduated with a degree in information technology and criminal justice from Rutgers University in New Jersey. He said he attended the fair so he can find a temporary job to support him until he can start training at the police academy in March.

In 2015, the unemployment rate for veterans in Texas was 4.3 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

About 4.3 million of the nation’s veterans - or about 20 percent - have a service-related disability, according to the Bureau of Labor.

The state of Texas offers employers who hire veterans with a service-related disability tax credits of up to $9,600, depending on when they were discharged from service and if the veteran has received unemployment benefits in the past year.

Rocky Northen, who currently works at a cabinet shop for a few hours every week, said he was interested in a variety of jobs presented at the fair, but said he can’t perform work that is too physically demanding.

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Northen, of Port Neches, said he hurt his neck, shoulder and knee while serving in the Marine Corp.

“I wouldn’t mind getting on with a school district, something I can do for a while,” said Northen, 39, who was looking for full-time work.

Entergy’s Brian Cutler, who was representing his employer at the fair, said the company has an online system where veterans can create a profile that will allow them to share their skills and resumes. The system will then match them to any suitable job openings.

Cutler, who has worked as a journeyman lineman with Entergy for three years, said he volunteered to work at the fair because he’s also a veteran.

“You can relate to them a little more,” he said. “It helps we have the same lingo.”

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