FORT HOOD, Texas - Soldiers, family members and members of the community came out in droves as the Transition Assistance Program here hosted its Mega Career Fair in-person for the first time since January 2020, just before COVID-19 struck the world on Sept. 14.
“Considering current events and the mask mandate, we were pleased by the turnout,” Jerry Hernandez, marketing supervisor for Fort Hood TAP, said. “Employers expressed their satisfaction regarding the participants that attended the career fair, mentioning that they were able to meet with many qualified candidates and appreciated the extra time to converse with each candidate.”
An estimated 1,800 job-seekers attended the event to speak with the 200 employers looking to hire military veterans and family members. The purpose of the TAP office is to prepare service members as they transition from the military to civilian life, which is where the Mega Career Fair comes into play.
Since COVID, the TAP office has tried to offer the same service virtually through a Virtual Mega Career Fair, but Hernandez said there was a big request by employers and job-seekers to return to in-person.
“It is so much better to talk to people face-to-face and have that interaction,” Jerilyn White, human resources manager with General Dynamics, said about in-person vs. virtual career fairs.
General Dynamics was at the Mega Career Fair hiring for federal contracting positions working on Abrams tanks, which some Fort Hood Soldiers have a lot of experience. White said the company sends teams around the world to help support military units.
Possibly the most common career field at the Mega Career Fair was law enforcement. While most of the police departments were local or in-state, the Phoenix Police Department, from Phoenix, Arizona, was also in attendance. Officer English Quals said the Phoenix PD had decided to start attending career fairs at military installations because the police and armed services share the same types of qualities.
“Military men and women have those good qualities that we need to represent our agency,” she said. “We definitely want someone who possess good discipline, integrity – that is No. 1 in this job – and a good work ethic.”
Quals said many police departments consist of military veterans, so the departments know they cannot really go wrong by attending. She added that the turnout for the event was more than she expected. Within the first hour after doors opened, she said she had spoken with more than 100 Soldiers.
Sgt. 1st Class Maxon Tom, 115th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, said the Mega Career Fair was great and he already had multiple interests in the short time he was there. Tom, who will be retiring soon, has been attending TAP training and is looking for a career in HR or security.
Meanwhile, Spc. Keisha Smith, 15th Military Intelligence Battalion, 504th Expeditionary MI Bde., is looking to make a transition as a diesel mechanic to an aviation mechanic. She said she enjoyed seeing the variety of career fields being offered. She also liked that some companies provide training for those looking to switch career fields as they transition out of the military.
One of the companies making its debut at Tuesday’s Mega Career Fair was InspiriTec, an AbilityOne company hiring those with disabilities. Approximately 80% of the company’s current employees are disabled veterans. Wayne Koonce, InspiriTec recruiting manager, said the company is expanding in Texas and will be hiring 50-75 people. He said the applicants must have a disability, medical disadvantage or a chronic medical condition. They must also be able to obtain a secret security clearance. The positions are for call center service and Koonce said they provide everything the employees need to make their work conditions comfortable.
“We make sure everything is in place for our employees to be successful,” he added.
Hernandez said the next Mega Career Fair will be held at Fort Hood Jan. 11.