Boeing, WorkSource help veterans find work

EVERETT — Rosa Bartol proudly wears a blue lanyard while on the job at the Boeing Company.

The words “Boeing” and “Veteran” stand out in bold white letters around the neck piece that holds her work badge.

Bartol, who lives in Arlington, is a security specialist at Boeing. She has worked for the company for 15 years and serves in the Washington Air National Guard. She joined the U.S. Army in 1986, shortly after graduating from high school in Los Angeles because she wanted to see the world. In the more than 26 years since, Bartol has completed tours in Germany and Iraq.

Adjusting to her work environment after coming home from a 2008-09 tour in Kirkuk, Iraq, was difficult, Bartol remembers. The sound of rivet guns in the company factory were especially upsetting.

“When I went out to the factory where the rivet guns went off I had an episode which ended up with me blacking out to where I don’t remember a thing,” she said. “When I came back from Iraq, it was really hard, but being that my boss is a veteran as well, he helped me find the resources within the Boeing Co.”

Bartol, 44, is now about a year away from retiring from the military. As an active participant in the new Boeing Employee Veterans Association in Everett, Bartol sees a way she can help other veterans further their personal and professional development and help those who are new to the workforce make the transition from military to civilian life.

About 24,500 veterans are employed at Boeing and many continue to serve in the National Guard and Reserves. In the past 21 months, the company reports having hired 3,000 veterans, and it is a sponsor of Hire America’s Heroes, a Redmond-based nonprofit that works to increase employment of military service members.

“This is great because now we have returning military personnel coming back from war looking for jobs,” Bartol said. “Those in the Hire America’s Heroes program are all gathering together to make a plan to help them transition into the civilian world.”

The U.S. Census Bureau, in a 2011 survey, reported that about 57,620 veterans were living in Snohomish County. About 11.9 percent of them were unemployed, compared with a 10.6 percent jobless rate among nonveterans.

Other organizations, such as WorkSource Snohomish County, are striving to help veterans find work. The employment agency holds two annual job fairs to help veterans who are looking for jobs connect with potential employers. Hundreds of people last Thursday attended the most recent Snohomish County Regional Veterans’ Job and Resource Fair at the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Marysville.

Neil Collins, of Whidbey Island, has been looking for work since September. He took a class offered by WorkSource that helped him revise his resume and learn how to make business cards. He had copies of his resume and cards in hand as he moved among the more than 40 employer booths at the event.

Collins, 37, served as a fuels specialist in the U.S. Air Force at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla. His four years of service included a tour in Turkey. After his military service ended in 1998, Collins found employment in the hotel industry. He later found work as a video production technician and as an insurance-claims adjuster.

“I want to showcase my other abilities and do something else,” Collins said. “All in all, I just want to find happiness in doing something else, but with the tough job market, I may have to go back to insurance.”

Veterans need to remember to talk about skills they have outside their military job classifications, especially when they’re first entering the workforce, Collins added.

Many veterans can find that difficult, agreed Paul Stayback, a disabled veterans outreach specialist with WorkSource.

“One of those challenges is pulling in those additional skills they’ve gotten through collateral duties or additional duties,” he said. “Just because somebody may have been a truck driver or a cook doesn’t mean that they weren’t doing inventory and they weren’t doing community resource functions and other transferable skills.”

Many of the skills people learn in the military are important to potential employers like Geoff Weatherbie, guest services manager at Comcast Arena in Everett. He spoke to veterans last week about available part-time positions.

“I found that veterans entering the workforce have a skill set that is unlike anything else and is really valuable,” he said. “I think they understand professionalism … They have a lot of respect for greeting people, looking them in the eye and things that are staples of military life but are rare nowadays” in the civilian world.

Lora Turner, 44, plans to retire from the U.S. Navy in early December. After 26 years as an oceanographer, she’d like to work for a company with positions in environmental science. The Mill Creek resident said looking for a new job is stressful but she’s trying to stay positive.

“If you want to work, you can work,” Turner said. “It’s scary but I am looking forward to staring something new.”

Amy Daybert: 425-339-3491; adaybert@heraldnet.com.

Learn more

Boeing earlier this month launched television advertisements to honor veterans. The commercial “Their Story” features Boeing employees who are also veterans, reflecting on their military service. Boeing this month also included veteran stories in print and online advertising and on their new website, Honoring Those Who Serve, at www.boeing.com/tribute.

For more information about WorkSource Snohomish County, go to www.worksourceonline.com.

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