South Texas Veterans Health Care System (STVHCS)
STX VA holds inaugural hiring summit for Veterans
The South Texas Compensated Work Therapy program matches Veterans to prospective employers. Sometime employment searches are made difficult by scheduling and transportation issues. CWT fixed that problem by bringing the employers to the Veterans with their first CWT hiring summit.
Paul Nasarian, who lives in Universal City, brought his friend, Matthew Howell to the summit. Nasarian said he likes to volunteer for Veteran causes. “It’s the one thing I think I regretted,” explained Nasarian, speaking of serving his country. “It is events like this that I like to try and give back. it’s sort of my way of serving.
The friend he brought, Navy Veteran Matthew Howell was contemplating a move from his current home in Salt Lake City.
His short trip turned into a little longer than expected thanks to a fall that put a gash on his head, and damage to his teeth. He spent 30 days as an inpatient at Audie L. Murphy Memorial Veterans Hospital.
“The staff there, the way I was treated, it was all fantastic,” Howell said. He appreciated the bedside manner of the nursing staff who after finding out his nickname was Mr. Coffee, had a warm cup of the morning beverage by his bedside each day.
That level of healthcare was a good reason to relocate to San Antonio, but Howell was there looking for employment to seal the deal.
The 34 employers had a good turnout of candidates including the VA who had 21 positions available, and took in 10 applications.
Even prior to the hiring summit, the VA was assisting Veterans in finding employment by arranging and provide preparation workshops. “We have community partners that are working with us by hosting workshops. It’s going to help them with their resume, their interviewing skills and their 30-second elevator speech,” said Penny Anderson, South Texas VA Vocational Rehab Specialist.
Anderson said it is a privilege to do this type of work. “With this work, it is therapy, and it makes us whole,” Anderson said. “When we have passion, we are able to give back ourselves.”
Brennon Davis, a representative from San Antonio Shoes said he saw a lot of that passion and was successful in attracting talent for their warehousing operations, taking in several applications, but was surprised when he got a candidate for one of his hard-to-fill positions. “I had a gentleman come to the booth and I was explaining the positions to him. He seemed disinterested, so I explained an equipment maintenance position I had available. He told me he was journeyman electrician,” Davis said. I couldn’t believe it. He filled out an application. “It must have been kismet,” Davis added.
The employers ranged from federal service, to warehousing, retail, banking and everything in between. There were also diverse offerings in responsibility from entry-level to mid-management. That was by design. Kevin Sellers, the South Texas VA Compensated Work Therapy (CWT) Program Director and his team visit employers across the South Texas community year-round to gauge their employment needs and add to his database of opportunities.
One of those Veterans who benefitted from those efforts was Navy Veteran Joe Cavasos. Although unemployment brought him to the job fair like many of the other candidates, his reasons were a little more personal. He learned of the job fair from the vocational rehabilitation team at the South Texas VA. He lived with his wife in Thailand and rotated back to the states up until his father-in-law became ill. His wife returned to assist him, and Joe stayed back. He sends most of his money overseas to support his wife.
They haven’t seen each other in a while, and he thought employment would enable him to see her more often.
He took full advantage of the CWT summit. “I love that they are doing this,” Cavasos said. “I wish there were more vendors, but for the first one, this is awesome.”
Cavasos filled out multiple applications and felt confident on a couple of them.
Cavasos wasn’t alone in his optimism. Sellers said 18 Veterans were hired right on the spot, while many others are waiting for additional hiring processes like background checks.
128 Veterans walked through the doors, and most had great feedback; great variety of employers, immediate facetime and the environment made it easier to overcome fears and talk to employers.
Sellers said this initiative is just the beginning. “This will allow CWT to develop an employer council, where employers meet quarterly to discuss changes in industry,” Sellers said.
“The partnerships between local employers and CWT is valuable in providing excellent patient care to our Veterans seeking assistance,” he added.