From Soldiers to Seekers

UCF has about 1,600 students who have seen active duty. About 25% of our student veterans are women. Most served since 2001 and come to us after two years at one of our state college partners.

Transitions can be hard. Family obligations and being the oldest student in the class can be isolating. Jobs after school can also be hard to come by: the unemployment rate among Gulf War II veterans remains much higher than for the population as a whole.

So a couple of years ago, Lonny Butcher of our Office of Professional Development decided to take on this problem and teach his job-seeking students something about the labor market at the same time: Students would learn how employers recruit candidates by organizing a job fair that focused on veterans. Wells Fargo stepped up to sponsor the event. It was a smashing success with more than $15,000 raised for the Wounded Warrior Project, many veterans interviewed and some of our student organizers landing job offers from employers at the event.

For version 2.0, we moved the job fair closer to Veterans Day and opened it up to anyone. Organized by our Ambassadors (especially Dionte Madden) and Tiffany Hughes, 80 companies looking to “Hire Our Heroes” showed up at the Venue last Friday. You can hear Bill Hendrickson from Accenture, an alum and member of our Dean’s Advisory Board, as well as Bryan Long from Wells Fargo (our sponsor) talk about the event by clicking here. In addition to raising another $15,000 for veterans’ causes and welcoming many vets to UCF, we hosted several workshops that offered advice to veterans about how to transition to civilian employment. Every employer told us they wanted to come back next year.

As successful as our event was Friday, the data tell me that a lot of our heroes are still looking for an opportunity. If you want to say thank you to those who served their country tomorrow, offer a veteran a job. Our heroes put their life on the line to secure our future. It’s time for us to help them secure theirs.

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