By Amanda Hatfield Anderson
BREVARD -- Dedication, motivation, integrity -- these qualities catch the eye of employers, who are seeking to expand their businesses.
These words are also qualities that describe thousands of veterans, who are seeking civilian careers after returning from action in the Middle East.
While there are many organizations devoted to helping veterans throughout the country, Eastern Florida State College's Small Business Development Center wants to help veterans in Brevard County succeed.
On Wednesday, Sept. 18, EFSC's Small Business Development Center will host its 13th annual Veterans Conference at the King Center for the Performing Arts on the college's Melbourne Campus. The conference, which includes workshops, runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
There is a $60 registration fee, which includes breakfast, lunch and materials.
"Many returning veterans have been out of the civilian workforce for several years and need new skills to adjust to the rapidly changing economy," said John Glisch, associate vice president of communications at EFSC. "However, their military training often provides them an excellent foundation to quickly move forward and adapt."
The Veterans Conference focuses on helping veterans, who own their own business, grow their firms, while lending a hand to veterans, who are interested in getting an enterprise off the ground. Additionally, the conference also aids business owners in assisting their veteran employees.
"The conference will provide veterans with a wealth of information on many topics and give them an opportunity to connect with key federal, state and local agencies that can help them transition into civilian life and have productive, successful careers," Mr. Glisch said.
The Veterans Conference is the largest of its kind hosted in the Central Florida area, with roughly 80 companies and organizations participating, including the Department of Veteran Affairs, Small Business Assistance Council and Veterans Business Outreach Center.
Representatives from NASA, Patrick Air Force Base, the U.S. Small Business Administration and Procurement Technical Assistance Center will also be on-hand at the Veterans Conference to offer their expertise.
The keynote speaker for this year's conference is retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Marcelite Harris, who is the CEO of two companies, MARSTEN and Eroster Government Services.
Maj. Gen. Harris, who was the first African-American woman brigadier general and major general in the U.S. armed forces, held a top-command assignment at the U.S. Air Force Academy and also served in the White House. She will talk about "Preparing for Life's Next Chapter."
"Veterans are one of our nation's greatest resources, and the conference is an excellent way for them to learn how to translate their military experience into successful civilian careers," said Robert Picket, director of EFSC's Small Business Development Center in a press release. "Many veterans have struggled after returning home, but the job market continues to improve, and businesses often want to hire veterans because of their strong work ethic and leadership qualities. That makes the conference a perfect fit for them."
The Eastern Florida conference comes at a time when unemployment among returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is finally seeing a decrease, dropping down to 7.3 percent in June.
Despite the recent drop in unemployment, veterans' advocates say that much more needs to be done to help former servicemen and women find employment.
Federal and private-sector programs aimed at helping veterans get jobs continues to expand, with the Eastern Florida conference serving as a shining example of programs available on the local level.
This academic year, more than 1,600 veterans are enrolled at EFSC, utilizing benefits that include the new G.I. Bill for those, who have served since Sept. 11, 2001.
"Our conference gets more interest each year, and we strive to bring the latest and best information for veterans to the forum," Mr. Picket said in a press release. "We're committed to doing everything we can to help them."
The Veterans Conference is Wednesday, Sept. 18 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the King Center for the Preforming Arts on Eastern Florida State College's Melbourne Campus. Registration is $60 and includes breakfast, lunch and materials.
To register for the Veterans Conference, visit www.easternflorida.edu/go/sbdc.
For more information about the Veterans Conference, call Sandy Pfrimmer at (321) 433-5570 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.