Serving those who have served others
EDC hosts first Veterans Day Jobs and Resource Fair
The Prince George’s County Economic Development Corporation (EDC), in partnership with the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLLR), hosted its first Veterans Day Jobs and Resource Fair Monday to provide job opportunities and resources for veterans and their spouses seeking employment or career growth.
The free event, held at the EDC’s headquarters in Largo, featured about 20 employers and more than 200 veterans who interviewed for job openings in hospitality, transportation, construction, security, healthcare and manufacturing. The concept behind the fair was to address the issue of unemployment within the veteran community and kick off the corporation’s Operation 500 initiative, which is geared toward securing high wage jobs for 500 veterans over the next six months, according to an EDC press release.
“We’ve got 2,700 veterans in our county who are unemployed. We’re talking about veterans that have just served and come back from Afghanistan and Iraq where they’ve [dodged] bullets and put themselves out [in danger] all for us,” said EDC President and CEO Jim Coleman. “It’s time for us to step up and make sure that they have what they need and good jobs so that they are sustainable and can take good care
of their families.”
Through the corporation’s partnership with agencies including DLLR, Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs and U.S. Vets, EDC Workforce Services Acting Director Walter Simmons said the Operation 500 initiative not only changes the lives of unemployed veterans, but can also assist transitioning military personnel as they get ready to separate from the armed forces. The EDC is grateful to be in a position to serve those who have preserved freedom for others, he said.
“We’re one of the largest counties in Maryland that has unemployed veterans and the State of Maryland itself is one of the top-ranking states in the country for veteran unemployment,” Simmons said. “What we want to do is attack it locally and start bridging that service connection. … We want to serve those who’ve served us.”
Statistics have found that veterans are often unaware of the support services available for them. In addition, many employers are also unaware of the available support service they can take advantage of for hiring veterans. The EDC’s jobs and resource fair provides a significant platform to generate awareness and provide training or employment opportunities for veterans, many of whom have transferrable skills, according to the press release.
As the nation’s largest nonprofit provider of comprehensive services to homeless and at-risk veterans, U.S. Vets touches the lives of thousands of veterans and their families in 20 residential sites and nine service centers in 13 cities across five states. Estimates from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs have shown a significant decrease in homelessness among veterans. While this reduction is promising, the needs of veterans struggling with homelessness, unemployment and other barriers to reintegration still exist, the U.S. Vets web- site noted.
“We’re proud as we’re the only location on the East Coast that’s a part of the U.S. Vets’ footprint,” said Raymond O’Pharrow, a workforce coordinator who works throughout Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia. “We want to share because we believe in helping every veteran have a job and a roof over their head. I enjoy this work. I have an ability to bring employers and resources to the forefront and help people in need. … It’s mutual — more veterans will become employed and our organization will continue to be relevant throughout the region.”
When it comes to helping every veteran and bringing resources to the forefront, the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs (MDVA) was created by the state legislature in 1999 as an executive agency with the mission of assisting veterans, active duty service members, their families and dependents in securing benefits earned through military service. MDVA offers five programs which include the service and benefits program, the Charlotte Hall Veterans Home, the Cemetery and Memorial program, the outreach and advocacy program and the Maryland Veterans Trust, according to the organization’s website.
The outreach and advocacy program’s mission is to develop innovative ways to seek out and inform Maryland’s veterans about benefits and services that are available from federal, state and local organizations, as well as solicit feedback from veterans regarding their requests and needs for additional services. It works closely with multiple local, state and federal agencies and nonprofit organizations to coordinate efforts to locate and inform Maryland’s veterans, as well as to expand benefits and services available.
“We’re always looking for op- portunities to get out into the community and engage with our veterans. We have a responsibility to ensure that 435,000 veterans across the state are aware of these benefits and entitlements that they have earned as a result of their military service,” said Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs Outreach and Advocacy Director Dana Hendrickson. “The bottom line is it’s simply good for business. Our veterans come to the workplace with insurmountable skill sets. … If anything, it means that they might be more resilient than the rest of the population because they’ve had to overcome challenges.”
“Veterans have done a great service to our country,” said former Anne Arundel County Board of Appeals member James E. Rzepkowski, who is now assistant secretary of DLLR’s division of workforce development and adult learning. “One thing I was taught as a child by my father, who served in the Maryland National Guard, is that you respect those who served and you go the extra mile when they need help. This is about bringing employers and veterans together to make sure that when veterans leave service, they can take the skills that made them so critical in our armed services and put those skills to work here at home.”
For veterans like Eric Janifer who served in the U.S. Army for 14 years, he’s just glad to know that there’s people like him seeking support services.
“It just lets me know that I’m not out here alone,” said Janifer, a Landover resident. “We’ve done our service for the country and … it’s time for us to come together.”
The EDC will host a veterans jobs and resource fair every month, except November, for the next five months. For more information, call 301-583-4650.
Dozens of veterans fill the inside of Prince George’s County Economic Development Center’s first floor conference room Aug. 1 for the EDC’s first-ever Veterans Day Jobs and Resource Fair held at its headquarters in Largo. The free event featured over...
Sgt. Barry Mouhamadou and Capt. Nancy Ridgely from the Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Office speak with a veteran about employment opportunities.
Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs Outreach Director Dana Hendrickson speaks with a veteran. MDVA offers five programs which include the service and benefits program, the Charlotte Hall Veterans Home, the Cemetery and Memorial program, the...
EDC Communications Specialist Josh Reynolds conducts an interview with two representatives from the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority as Ardania Williams of Lendana Construction Co. Inc., center, speaks with Vietnam veteran Eric Janifer...