BELLEVILLE — Air Force veteran Elgene Crisostomo is looking for a job.
"I am looking at a VA civil service type of job," the 26-year-old Belleville resident said. "If the right opportunity comes, maybe I'll apply for a civilian job. Right now, I really want to stay in federal because of my experience in the military."
On Thursday morning, he went to the Veterans Job Fair at Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville to see what he could find. He check out U.S. Steel Corp., which owns and operates the steel mill in Granite City.
"I actually applied at U.S. Steel before and had an interview a couple months ago," Crisostomo said. "But my experience was not enough, and somebody else was hired for the job, which is OK."
The annual job fair is open to the public, but many of the 99 different employers who had signed up to participate said they find military experience essential among applicants. Mark Tade is a manager of employee relations at U.S. Steel Corp.-Granite City Works. Tade, who is also a navy veteran, met with Crisostomo and several other veterans Thursday.
"I used to work with submarines and now I'm an HR guy," Tade said.
He said veterans have the experience and discipline that many companies are looking for.
"U.S. Steel is a large company and deals in a large organizational structure with a hierarchy that is not too dissimilar from the military," Tade said. "So people who have experience in the military already have experience working in that type of organizational structure. For a manager, we're looking for people that have supervising capabilities. Steel workers aren't that much different from sailors, soldiers and Marines."
The job fair included a diverse group of employers. Those in attendance included representatives from retail stores like Walgreens, home improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowe's, local law enforcement such as the St. Louis Police Department, the Prairie State Energy Campus power plant, the Argosy Casino Alton and colleges such as Lindenwood University, Washington University in St. Louis and job fair host SWIC.
Another was St. Louis-based financial services firm Edward Jones. On Thursday, the company announced that it has hired 300 military veterans as financial advisers so far this year. These recently hired add to the estimated 1,300 veterans who are already employed as financial advisors at the firm.
Daniel Lovekamp also was recruiting veterans to apply at the Auffenberg Dealer Group of Illinois in O'Fallon. As the director of training for the metro-east-based dealership, Lovekamp said he always searches for veterans to hire.
"They have discipline, understand job criteria, they're trainable and coachable," Lovekamp said. "Generally, they tend to be motivated."
Tiffany Wesselmann, an independent sales director for Mary Kay Cosmetics, said veterans have the skills to generate sales and satisfied customers.
"Absolutely," Wesselmann said. "They're hard workers and they're dedicated to what they want to do. They're out there to work. I'm looking for hard workers."
And more veterans are finding jobs than in recent years, when unemployment had been on the rise. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the jobless rate among vets was 6.3 percent in October, compared to 7.7 percent in October 2011 and 8.7 percent in October 2010.
By comparison, the unemployment rate for non-veterans in October 2012 was higher, at 7.4 percent and had reached 9.3 percent in October 2009.
The jobless rate among veterans was only 3.4 percent in October 2007, right before the latest recession began in December of that year.
The U.S. unemployment rate among veterans fell from 8.7 percent in 2010 to 8.3 percent in 2011. The rate was at 3.8 percent in 2007.
The jobless rate for post-9/11 veterans in Illinois was 9.5 percent in 2011 compared to the 8.1 percent of all veterans throughout the state.
Navy veteran Ida Moody works at Scott Air Force Base in Belleville. She is looking for work in telecommunications, which she has done for 18 years.
"I'd like to stay in that field, so I wanted to come out to see if there are any of these jobs," said Moody, who lives in St. Charles, Mo.
Army veteran and Shiloh resident Anthony Randle spoke with a recruiter from the Federal Bureau of Prisons in Greenville because of his past work in special forces and security.
"I've had a lot of experience with that," Randle said. "I've dealt with different personnel for many years. So, for me, it's not an issue dealing with inmates. I am trained in self-defense."
His recruiter, Kurt Neudeck, said being a veteran can be the most valuable asset for anyone's resume. He said the bureau in Greeneville has a track record of only hiring veterans over the past three years.
"Being a veteran, if you did your four years, chances are you're going to have the qualifications that's going to qualify for an entry-level position," Neudeck said.
Contact reporter Will Buss at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2526.