'Ambassadors of Hope' share opportunities and options with veteran community

Capitol Heights, MD, Nov. 2, 2017 - For the second year in a row, the Prince George's County Economic Development Corporation (EDC) Workforce Services Division opened the windows of opportunity to local Veterans at its Veterans Jobs and Resource Fair at Dave and Buster's yesterday. More than 200 Veterans were introduced to 80 private sector employment and resource partners ready to provide them with game-changing career opportunities. Walter Simmons, Executive Director of the EDC's Workforce Services Division, and James Rzepkowski, Assistant Secretary of the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLLR) kicked off the day with encouraging words to the Veterans and the employers.
"Today has been a great launch to a month of Veterans events at the Economic Development Corporation Workforce Services Division," said Simmons.  "I am honored to stand with our partners from Virginia, the District of Columbia and other jurisdictions in Maryland to bring our employers the skilled talent that our veteran community provide to the workforce. Veterans are the life-blood of American democracy and being a partner in their success story is what the Economic Development Corporation is about." 
The EDC's Workforce Services Division, in collaboration with Military Corps Career Connect, the Veterans Administration, Habitat for Humanity, America Works, the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation and many other resource providers committed to participating in the Veteran Job and Resource Fair to address the unemployment crisis in the Veteran community.  DLLR Assistant Secretary James Rzepkowski commented on the partnership that Prince George's County has with the State and its regional resource providers.
"Prince George's County is a very engaged and aggressive workforce services partner when it comes to supporting the veteran community that has served this country," said Rzepkowski.  "The County is continually thinking about new and innovative ways to engage job seekers and businesses in their area.   These business partners are ambassadors of hope that are providing a life line to our Veteran community. With all the growth taking place in Prince George's County, a qualified and skilled workforce is imperative to fill all the jobs the new businesses bring."
Prince George's County is home to the largest concentration of Veterans in Maryland. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, more than 11,000 Veterans were unemployed in 2016. The State of Maryland, along with the EDC have worked to cut the Veteran unemployment rate from 8% in 2014 to 4% in 2016 because of targeted outreach programs and event like the Veterans Job Fair and the committed business partners in Prince George's County.  Laurie Sales Artis, a Marine Veteran and President and CEO of Civility Management Solutions, is one of several business partners that regularly participate in EDC Workforce Job Fairs.
"I am always delighted to work with the Economic Development Corporation and I appreciate the work that they are doing in Prince George's County," said Artis. "As a fellow Marine Veteran, I know the work ethic that a Veteran brings to the workforce. Through today's job fair, and several like this one, I have been successful in recently hiring several Veterans in my company.  I welcome the opportunity to bring more of my fellow Veterans into the work place."
Major franchises, like Olive Garden, were also in attendance conducting on-site interviews.  By the time the job fair came to a close, Olive Garden had made several job offers and was considering many more candidates for their new restaurant in the Ritchie Station Mall which will open next month.
"We're here to change one life at a time for our community," said Tracy O'Connor, Director of Operations for Olive Garden.  "We've hired over 100 employees for our new restaurant and are looking for 70 more before it opens.  Today, we took over an entire interview room and it was our pleasure to hire 15 new employees.  It was a pleasure to be here."
Many of the Veterans shared their appreciation to the EDC for having a job fairs specifically for them.  Several received multiple invitations to interview and conditional job offers from the local employers.
"This has been a great day for me," said Joseph Carter, retired Army Veteran.  "When I came out of the service after the Vietnam War, nobody was there to offer this kind of support.  The television commercials said 'Hire a Vet', but that was all.  To have someone working to be sure that I have a job and that I'm doing okay is a wonderful thing.  I'm glad that I came out today."
For more information about job placement assistance or how to host a selected recruitment for your company, contact Jeffrey Swilley, Assistant Director of Business Services for EDC Workforce Services Division at 301-618-8400 or jswilley@co.pg.md.us.