Leo Deon, left, and Tom Neal were guest speakers during the Lewiston Auburn Chamber of Commerce’s “breakfast for dinner” in Auburn on Thursday evening. Deon is veterans’ representative at the Lewiston and Wilton CareerCenters and Neal is senior manager of recruiting at Carbonite Inc. for the Lewiston/Auburn area. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

LEWISTON — Before coming to the Lewiston Auburn Chamber of Commerce’s monthly breakfast, Tom Neal asked six military veterans working at Carbonite Inc. now how that experience helps them today.

“The folks we hire are doing technical support, but in the military they were janitors, they were in health care, they were in food service,” said Neal, Carbonite’s senior manager of recruiting. “One did IT, but most did not. They’re accountable — they have to own their mistakes, and they will make mistakes in the military and they will be educated about that. They are very good about chain of command, they understand to respect authority. They’re very good about taking direction — they want direction. Tell them what to do, give them a chance to do it.”

Neal and Leo Deon, veterans’ representative at the Lewiston and Wilton CareerCenters, spoke Thursday night at the chamber’s “breakfast for dinner” at Martindale Country Club about all the reasons why businesses should be hiring veterans, a talk themed to honor Veterans Day.

“The unemployment rate for veterans in the state of Maine is less than 2%,” Deon said. “Veterans who want to work are working. Our challenge is finding those veterans who come out of the service and are at $11, $12, $13 an hour. With a little refocusing, a little career orientation, get them up to the $20-an-hour range where they really need to be. #CareerUpgrade.”

Leadership, teamwork and efficient performance under pressure are all strong reasons, they said.

“The simplest way to explain why to hire a veteran, I would say it’s less risk in my opinion,” Neal said. “The accelerated learning curve is probably the most significant one to me because, when you look at the resume of someone who’s come out of the military, it doesn’t typically translate to the job that you’re trying to hire them for. That can lead a lot of hiring managers to dismiss people right on the spot, without looking further, because they don’t understand. They want to work hard, they want to prove themselves.”

Maine is in the middle of its fifth Hire-A-Vet campaign, Deon said, an effort to hire 100 people in 100 days by 100 employers.

Last year, 286 veterans were hired during the campaign.

“It is the biggest job fair in the state of Maine on an annual basis,” Deon said. “So far this year, we’ve had 91 hires and we’ve got another four weeks to go in the program.”


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