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Jobs Expo Attracts Hundreds of Job Seekers at Camp Pendelton

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Aired 3/8/11

Thousands of Marines are expected to leave active duty this year. A Jobs Expo on Camp Pendleton brought out more than 700 job seekers.

The "Jobs Expo" on Camp Pendleton today attracted more than 700 job seekers.

Thousands of Marines are expected to leave active duty this year. They face competition in the job market from older, more experienced Marines and veterans also looking for work, but with more experience to offer.

The website military.com, which sponsored the expo, reported that more than 215,000 service members across the nation are making the transition from the military back into civilian life.

The longest lines in the room were for three defense contractors: Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems.

Erik Duthy was in the BAE line. He drove from Lake Arrowhead for the expo.

“All the employers are here in one spot,” he said. “I’m going to hit as many of them as I can.”

Duthy is an Army veteran who served in the first Gulf War. He has a degree in chemistry, and electrical and construction experience, but he said he’s been unemployed for about two years now. He did his research before coming to the expo and knew which companies were looking for his skills.

Not everyone was interested in defense contracting work. Erik Bowers, also an Army vet from Operation Desert Storm, was in the line to speak to Border Patrol recruiters. He said he’s been underemployed as a security guard for several years. Many of his friends from the military got jobs in law enforcement and he drove from L.A. to see if he could land a spot with better pay.

Master Gunnery Sergeant Damon Bitts, speaking to the recruiter for Lockheed Martin at the Military.com Jobs Fair, March 8th 2011.
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Above: Master Gunnery Sergeant Damon Bitts, speaking to the recruiter for Lockheed Martin at the Military.com Jobs Fair, March 8th 2011.

Gunnery Sgt. Damon Bitts is preparing to leave the Corps next year, with 25 years as a Marine under his belt. But, as he said, that means he hasn’t applied for a job in 25 years. After waiting an hour to speak to a Northrop Grummon recruiter, he was upbeat and grateful for the help he got with his resume. But he knows it’s a tough time to be leaving the military.

“I’m looking at aviation logistics,” he said, “but I’d accept all job offers. Is KPBS hiring?”

The recruiter from Lockheed Martin, Simeon Garreott, said his company has already hired 100 people from expos like this one already this year, and has 400 positions open in California right now. He said that is on a par with last year.

But most people said there were more job seekers at this year’s expo than last .

And the employers were outnumbered by for-profit colleges. They were recruiting veterans to use their GI Bill benefits for a qualification in anything from interior design and cooking, to management and business. Under the new GI bill -- the most generous since World War Two -- veterans can qualify for allowances of $2,000 a month if they sign up to go back to school.

But the lines at those tables were short. Only a few younger Marines, sailors or veterans showed up to the Expo, and most were looking for work, not more education.

However Michael Lew, an employment coordinator for the Veteran's Administration in San Diego, said the high unemployment rates for younger veterans leaving the military is masked by the number who do choose to take advantage of that benefit and go back to school. It remains to be seen whether they will land jobs when they graduate.

There were a few women standing in line with the men. Some were veterans, others were wives of active-duty military looking for a way to supplement the family income. Josette Liddy was there with her baby daughter, and stopped at the table offering jobs for preschool teachers. The salary ranged from about $9 to $13 an hour. Liddy said her academic career had been interrupted by several moves to keep up with her husband’s career, but she discovered she did have enough credits to qualify for this position.

“I need to get out of the house more,” she said. She was one of the few who left the expo with a guaranteed job, if she chooses to take it.

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