To work for Fireworks Extravaganza, a job applicant needs a clean record and the ability to pass a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives background check.
That's one reason Wells Berni, a local representative of the New Jersey-based company and "lead shooter" for fireworks displays, likes to hear from people with military backgrounds when recruiting potential employees.
"I've got to be very careful," Berni said. "The military, they do a lot of drug screenings and they have a lot of security checks. So I feel I won't have a problem."
Berni was one of a dozen employer representatives who set up booths at the Ruhl Armory in Towson on Monday for the Hiring Our Heroes job fair, aimed specifically at veterans and military spouses. The fair was sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's National Chamber Foundation and Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, among others.
Employers and service members said that while the military can build discipline, leadership and other valuable traits, it's not always easy for veterans to communicate the way those skills translate to the civilian marketplace.
Rob Ashman, a military recruiter for United Road, a Michigan-based auto transport company, said some employers don't see how military skills and job skills can be related, and fear the unknown when it comes to hiring veterans. "They don't know what to expect," he said.
"They don't see us as soldiers unless we have our uniforms on," said Marcus Baynard, a 24-year-old Baltimore resident who attended the fair looking for a job.
Baynard joined the Maryland National Guard in 2009 and has learned a lot from the experience, he said. "I needed a challenge, and I needed discipline," he said of his decision to join the military. "Regular living is undisciplined."
Now, he'd like to translate that experience into a computer-based career, or one in a "people-oriented" field such as customer service.
Lt. Col. Butch Hensel, area chairman for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, said the number of businesses that employ military personnel has fallen in recent years — many of them small companies that have fallen victim to the economy, he said.
Verizon and Sinai Hospital were among other employers at the fair, which drew about 75 job seekers, according to Emily Clark Munoz, a regional associate for Hiring Our Heroes.
The event was part of a national Chamber of Commerce campaign to encourage the hiring of 500,000 veterans and military spouses by the end of 2014. Those who took part each committed to hiring two veterans or military spouses, Hensel said. For a list of upcoming Hiring Our Heroes events, go to hoh.greatjob.net.