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Superior job market targets veterans

The transition from the armed services to the private sector isn't always easy. For Dennis Ernst of Superior, first a medic in the U.S. Army, then a heavy equipment operator in the National Guard, the job skills learned in service of his country ...

The transition from the armed services to the private sector isn't always easy.

For Dennis Ernst of Superior, first a medic in the U.S. Army, then a heavy equipment operator in the National Guard, the job skills learned in service of his country didn't translate into a civilian job.

But with the help of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, the veteran is working as a truck driver for AA Roll Off in Superior.

This year, the department that runs Superior's Job Service is stepping up efforts to create more success stories like Ernst's by working with the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs. The state agencies worked together to launch a series of job fairs specifically to help veterans to make the transition to civilian work life.

The last in that series runs 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday at the Army National Guard Armory, 32 N. 21st St., in Superior.

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Officials from both agencies and the Wisconsin National Guard urge employers to hire veterans as the economy moves toward recovery and positions become available.

"I believe any employer who is looking for superb talent would do well to consider Wisconsin's veterans ...," DWD Secretary Roberta Gassman said. "Although these are challenging economic times, employers are hiring, and we expect job growth in the months ahead."

At this job fair, like others held across the state, she said, the agencies are joining forces to help veterans find work, meet the needs of employers and move the state's economy forward.

Ernst said the help he received, which included truck-driving training at Lake Superior College and support from fellow job hunters, proved helpful in gaining the job he holds today.

"They gave me a ton of help," Ernst said. He said in addition to the support and training, the staff at Workforce Development helped him with his resume and gave him new references.

Even when he was ready to give up looking for work after six months, Ernst said DWD staffer Tom Casey's persistence in e-mailing him job opportunities helped him find a job that was the right fit for him and his family.

Ernst said he drives his truck locally and works from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., which allows him to spend time with his family.

Gassman said DWD has hired 70 disabled veterans, including 20 women and 11 minorities, to help provide employment and training services to veterans.

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Last year, DWD and its partners provided job services to about 8,000 veterans.

"This unique partnership reflects Wisconsin's commitment to our returning veterans and the Wisconsin National Guard is proud to be a part of providing this opportunity," Brig. Gen. Don Dunbar, Adjutant General of Wisconsin and Commander of the Wisconsin National Guard, said. "Our veterans offer unique and significant capabilities to the private sector. They have served a cause larger than themselves, understand teamwork and have applied leadership skills under difficult conditions. I believe any employer who is looking for superb talent would do well to consider Wisconsin's veterans."

About 21 employers are expected to attend the job fair in Superior, said DWD staffer Terry Erickson. In addition to employers, he said agencies that offer help in accessing veterans benefits will be on hand.

"One of the most important ways Wisconsin can help veterans, and especially our returning veterans, is to help them find jobs," WDVA Secretary Kenneth Black said. "Employment is a key factor to their success in other aspects of their lives. The Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs is pleased to partner with other agencies as part of our mission to serve our veterans."

Ernst said he recommends veterans take advantage of the job fair.

"You never know when you'll find the right match," Ernst said.

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