POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Hiring fair highlights successes, struggles for NJ veterans

BY Michael Hill, Correspondent |

Retired Army Private Vincent Weston says he needs a better position and better pay.

“I need a better position. Better pay, better hours because right now I’m working part time. I’m not able to pay my bills and everything off of that,” he said.

Weston found a full-time kitchen job at a recruitment hiring fair held by New Bridge Medical Center and Bergen County Veterans Services.

“It’s very great. I’m grateful. I’m glad,” said Weston.

In the first two hours, Veteran Services found jobs for two of three applicants.

“It feels good but we always know we can improve. If we do six out of eight, seven out of ten, that’s what we’re hoping for,” said AJ Luna, director of the Division of Veteran Services in Bergen County.

Luna says if he finds that fellow vets lack skills, he puts them in touch with other organizations for training.

“We’re thinking outside our box as far as traditional job fairs go,” he said.

New Bridge Medical Center says it has a lot of job openings and opportunities for veterans for jobs to start careers.

“We really value the veterans in our community and want to be able to give them opportunities here at New Bridge Medical Center,” said Deborah Visconi, president and CEO of New Bridge Medical Center.

Combat veteran Torie Fisher retired after 13 years in the Army and became the first female vet to found a brewery called Backward Flag Brewing Company in Ocean County.

“I feel like in military you’re not really given an option but to succeed. So I think that’s really what you need as an entrepreneur,” said Fisher.

Fisher recruits and hires fellow vets. In March, she launches Arms2Artisans to help other vets find careers through brewing.

“I think it’s great when companies get out there and they open their doors up to veterans. Veterans need that,” she said.

A veteran founded the national not-for-profit Bunker Labs. It gives vets six months of free working space, connections to other entrepreneurial vets and contacts to launch businesses. Retired Marine Mike Steadman of Newark is the community manager of the program called Vets in Residence.

“The nice thing about Bunker Labs is it gets veterans back together. And we like to call it the military alumni association, so being able to leverage each other’s assets, skills and talents to help us grow our ventures,” said Steadman.

The Department of Defense did not offer a comment about what it does to prepare vets for the job market. So, did Weston get any?

“No sir,” he said.

But, for Steadman, here’s his mindset.

“The biggest thing I think is that delayed gratification. I think a lot of times people want to come into a business or an organization, or even if they’re just starting their own venture and they want everything now. But the military really teaches you that you have to grind it out,” he said.

Fisher has advice for retiring vets.

“I would definitely say the big thing is stay motivated. What I’ve seen with a lot of veterans is they get out, they take time off and then it’s hard for them to get motivated again,” she said.

Motivated for life after the military.