Frank Evans, left, speaks Scott Hundley, Fastenal district manager during the Hiring Our Heroes job fair at American Legion Post 260 in Portage Thursday May 2, 2013. Evans, of Portage, served in the US Navy from 1989-95.| Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 16, 2013 6:08AM
Robert Stowers didn’t expect to walk into a job fair at American Legion Post 260 and walk out with a job.
But he did. Stowers, 25, served more than six years in the Army, much of it in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Valparaiso resident completed his service March 15 and went to a May 2 job fair at the post that was targeted for veterans.
He took a job as a truck driver for Universal, through the firm’s Troops 2 Truckers program.
“I was a truck driver in the military, so it transfers over pretty easy,” he said, adding he’d been to three or four other tables at the job fair. After getting a commercial drivers license, Stowers could start his new job the following week.
The legion’s auxiliary put on the job fair, which drew about 30 employers. Nancy Benac, the auxiliary’s first vice president and community service chair, found out online about holding a fair through the federally sponsored Hiring Our Heroes program.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, among other organizations, sponsors the program. Benac said the U.S. Chamber brought in the employers, and she worked with the local chamber to get the word out about the job fair.
Employers said veterans were potentially a good fit for jobs at their companies.
“We’re a growth organization and we hire folks who demonstrate our cultural values,” said Scott Hundley, district manager for Fastenal in Crown Point, adding those values are ambition, innovation, teamwork and integrity.
Veterans, Hundley said, have those traits and characteristics.
Dan Reagor, who is retired from the Army, agreed. He’s director of capacity development for Universal’s Troops 2 Trucks program, and offered Stowers a job with the company, which has a branch in Gary to serve the steel mills.
“When I left the military 23 years ago, they said goodbye. Today, every soldier who comes out gets transition job training,” he said, adding his firm offers a six-week paid apprenticeship program through Troops 2 Trucks, during which veterans also get a bonus from the Veterans Administration.
He hoped to hire at least two or three veterans as truck drivers and take resumes for dispatch and logistics positions. Reagor also networks with other employers who may be able to hire someone he can’t.
“I’m not here to be veteran friendly,” he said. “I’m here to hire veterans.”