Hiring Our Heroes matches veterans with employers

Farmers and soldiers have both been around a very long time, and they have much in common. That’s why Simon Bollin, agribusiness development manager for the Hillsborough County Economic Development Department, is fired up about matching veterans with jobs in agriculture. He wants to spread the word about Hiring our Heroes, a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation-sponsored event that’s one of his favorite projects.

“It’s held at different locations around the country,” Bollin said. “There a couple different programs. There’s one for spouses, one for wounded warriors and the general Hiring Our Heroes. There will be a job fair and workshops for both employers and potential employees.”

The band KISS lent a hand at a recent HOH event.

Hiring Our Heroes was created to help veterans, transitioning service members and military spouses find meaningful employment opportunities by coordinating state and local chambers of commerce and partners such as Hillsborough County.

The Florida event will be held at C.W.  “Bill” Young Armed Forces Reserve Center, 2801 Grand Ave., in Pinellas Park on Sept. 16. An employee workshop is scheduled for 8:30 a.m., an employer “brunch and learn” session will start at 9 a.m., and the job fair runs from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Bollin is eager to have as many agriculture-oriented employers attend as possible.

He lists several skills that soldiers and farmers have in common, including maintenance, human resources and logistics management. “Many of these veterans have experience in management of people and crews and teams, so it doesn’t matter if you’re a sergeant in an infantry squad or a field manager for a harvest crew, you’re still managing people and trying to get production and performance up to a certain level,” he said.

Another benefit for employers is that many of the veterans coming out of MacDill Air Force Base and the U.S. Southern Command are fluent in multiple languages, Bollin said. “Spanish is essential in agriculture. Having a native or fluent speaker with a strong background in management or logistics or HR is really a great skill to have in Florida agriculture.”

In addition to job fairs and workshops, Hiring our Heroes offers digital tools to help veterans and others in their job search.

He also says the ability to work independently is important to success in the military as well in agriculture production, along with the ability to wear multiple hats. “It’s pretty common that you’re not just a tractor driver; you’re a boss, a mechanic, a salesman and in charge of inventory and financial matters. You run into a lot of similar situations in both fields. And the operation tempo is similar in that different things are happening at different times of the year.”

To date, more than 28,000 veterans and military spouses have found jobs through Hiring Our Heroes events. In addition to the job fairs and workshops, the Chamber offers digital resources that include resume builders, an online job portal, a virtual career fair platform, an interactive employer best practices site and a virtual mentorship program.

Learn more about the Florida event here. If you have questions about registration, send an email to elombardi@uschamber.com or call 202-657-2455.

Reach Simon Bollin with any agriculture-specific requests or questions at bollins@hillsboroughcounty.org or at 813-276-2735.

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