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Tampa Bay area job fair targets National Guard unemployment

4:36 PM, Jun 30, 2011   |    comments
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Pinellas Park, Florida -- While yet another job fair in the Bay area may not seem like anything unique, the dozens of men and women looking for jobs Thursday at the Armed Forces center in Pinellas Park, all had something in common.

They're members of the Florida National Guard: people who have voluntarily served us, been actively deployed, and are now themselves in need of some assistance.

"It's essentially pretty difficult," said Mike Brody going from table to table, "because it's very difficult to translate military experience in the civilian world."

After 10 years of fighting wars on various fronts, there is no shortage of people who've returned from active duty looking for work, and with the recently announced troop drawdown, there will likely be thousands more.

Many at today's job fair had expected their jobs to be waiting for them when they returned. But as Sgt. Mike Ruelas found out, that's not always the case.

"First of all, they said they had to downsize and the position I was in had been eliminated," said Ruelas.

The Florida National Guard organized Thursday's job fair specifically to address the estimated 30% unemployment rate among its members. With 2,400 from our area alone, that's more than 700 in need of work.

Many of those looking for work already possess the skills, discipline and work ethic that Rebecca Albert, a recruiter for BAE Systems, looks for.

"Military members have been trained to serve and to do the best job that they can," says Albert.

And the jobs at the fair varied greatly, from landscaping to law enforcement, Home Depot to Homeland Security.

If connections are made, dozens of these currently unemployed or underemployed could soon be back to work.

And that, says job fair organizer Raymond Perez, seems only right.

"We owe them. We owe them that," says Perez. "We owe them the opportunity to get back on their feet."

Organizers say if they could get even two people solid jobs out of Thursday's job fair, they'd consider it a success.

This was the first year they've tried this very focused idea. They plan on making it an annual event. 

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