A few weeks ago, First Selectman Fillmore McPherson was listening to a radio interview. He heard a young man, a veteran who had returned to Connecticut from Afghanistan several months ago, say he had been unable to find a job-"and then something clicked," McPherson said.
"I was listening to this well-spoken young man explain his difficulties in finding a job, and the consequences of further unemployment, and things just clicked, you know, the way they do sometimes," McPherson explained. "One of our town employees had just turned in his notice. We were advertising the position. Here was a returning veteran. Maybe he could be a good fit. In my experience, veterans are well-trained, hard-working and disciplined-a good employee."
He discussed the idea with Amy Dickman, the manager of human resources, and with Bill McMinn, the director of facilities, because the job opening is within McMinn's department. McPherson then reached out to the state adjutant general, who oversees the Connecticut National Guard. Could his office put out the word through its state military communications networks to let unemployed returning veterans know about this position? The answer was yes.
"This is not a big deal; it's just one opening, but I would like to find a way to open it up to a veteran who is qualified. This isn't a big splash with a hundred jobs, but one job could make a difference for one veteran," McPherson explained.
Dickman said the present opening is for a full-time building and grounds maintainer, which is considered a semi-skilled position.
"We would not be giving special consideration to a veteran and the town would still fill the position with the applicant we considered most qualified," Dickman said, "but if we can tap into that veteran pool, then perhaps we can find one or more qualified veterans to hire."
Over the past six months, the town has advertised for two other building and grounds maintainer positions, a town planner, a director of finance, and there may be an opening soon with the Finance Department because of internal moves. The town is filling jobs and returing veterans are looking for jobs in a state with an unemploymnt rate hovering around 7.7 percent.
The next job posting will seek an engineering assistant.
"The applicant will need to have the specific background, experience, and education we are seeking," Dickman said, "and I'm confident there may be a returning veteran out there who might meet all those requirements."
One idea, one job posting, one veteran, one town.
"Maybe we can make a difference here and find a good employee in the process," McPherson said.