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July 23, 2013

Bridge to employment

Job fair hosted for former military personnel

NEW ALBANY — Indiana National Guardsman Anthony Garcia is unemployed and is staring down a mounting stack of bills.

Hearing about a job fair last week through his National Guard unit, Garcia was determined to give it a try.

That’s how he found himself among fellow veterans on Tuesday at an event that emphasized working on the Ohio River Bridges Project.

“I need something more consistent,” Garcia, of Jeffersonville, said. “It’s a big help, I wouldn’t know where to go to apply for the bridge work.”

At the National Guard Armory off Grant Line Road, guard and former military personnel signed up to vie for jobs associated with, or that stand to benefit from, the bridges project while attending the fair.

The Indiana Department of Transportation, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and contractor teams for the bridges project teamed up with the Indiana National Guard, WorkOne and Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs and Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve to host the fair, which was expected to draw more than 200 participants.

“This was initially set up to be in conjunction with the Ohio River Bridges Project, but it has expanded,” said Indiana National Guard Capt. Catalina Carrasco. She is also the program manager for the national guard’s employment coordination program. “It is with an emphasis in the military community, however, it is open to the public,” she said of the job fair.

Garcia wasn’t the only hopeful employee for the bridges project.

Indiana National Guard members Mark Small and Joshua Dixon both said they planned to apply for one of the jobs with the bridges project contracting teams.

“The bridges project is going to be a prevailing wage job,” Dixon said of his interest in working for one of the contractors. He added that if he was hired by one of the bridges contractors, it may lead to employment beyond the three year construction timeline of the bridges project.

“I figured there would be a lot better opportunities here than looking through the newspaper,” he said.

Walsh Construction Project Manager Max Rowland said while there are hiring requirements for Disadvantaged Business Enterprises, DBEs, there are no requirements for hiring veterans.

“[There’s] no requirement for veterans, but we want to use as many as we can,” Rowland said.

He said companies are interested in veterans and reserve military members because they have good work experience and they are reliable.

“It means a lot to us if somebody’s willing to work and they show up every day,” Rowland said. “You can’t complete this job in the aggressive schedule if our crews don’t show up to work every day.”

Walsh Design Build Team — working on the downtown portion of the project — and WVB East End Partners have not hired the full complement of employees.

Rowland said current staffing levels are only at about 20 to 25 percent of the total workforce that will be hired.

“We’re still building up crews right now,” he said. “By the end of September we’ll probably filled up for this year.”

Ron Heustis, INDOT project manager for the Ohio River Bridges Project, said there were opportunities beyond being initially hired to work on the bridges project at the job fair.

“We see this as an ongoing opportunity during the whole project, this is not a one time shot,” he said of the employees being sought Tuesday. “The big piece behind the bridges is providing the economic opportunity to southern Indiana and ... Kentucky. That’s where the long-lasting job opportunities come from.”

Erik Martinez, a recruiter from Jeffersonville-based Accent Marketing, was among the many non-bridges related companies set up at the fair. The former member of the Air Force was on-hand looking for the right fit for the company, but was also hoping to help someone find a new career.

“I’m just here to give someone the opportunity to do something else,” he said. “I would personally do [this] and volunteer my time just because it is a veterans fair.”

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Amy Harpenau is the new director of theater arts at New Albany High School. Harpenau is a 2007 graduate of Floyd Central High School, has appeared on stage at both high schools and worked in theaters since she graduated college.

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