By Tony Khing
SONOMA — When looking at former U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Ana Sarver, one can’t tell she’s suffering from PTSD and has a traumatic brain injury.
Service-disabled veterans like the 20-year Navy sailor were the focus of the third Military Career Day, which was held this summer before the Toyota/Save Mart 350 NASCAR event at Sonoma Raceway. The event featured 50 employers – including PG&E, local companies and law enforcement agencies. More than 100 attendees were able to network with fellow veterans, learn about career opportunities and get advice on preparing for job interviews.
Although the Military Career Day was open to all veterans, the priority was on helping those with a service-related disability. “It (the career fair) is important for those of us with disabilities to come in not feeling like we’re at a disadvantage,” said Sarver, a PG&E technical program training manager who participated in a panel discussion.
Sarver, who’s among the 71 percent of Americans with an invisible disability, said service-disabled veterans often have the necessary career skills, but run into roadblocks when they have to explain their limitations. “I can tell an employer I can do all of these great things,” she said, “and then I have to explain that under certain circumstances, I may not be at 100 percent. Some employers don’t know how to deal with that or know what that means.”
“Most employers, including PG&E, understand they have to make some accommodation for that veteran,” said Mike Conklin, chairman and CEO of Sentinels of Freedom, a co-sponsor of the Military Career Day with PG&E and Sonoma Raceway. Sentinels of Freedom helps veterans who’ve suffered a severe service-related injury transition back into civilian life.
According to Jesse Iwuji, a second-year driver on the NASCAR K&N Pro Series circuit and a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Reserve, service-disabled veterans need to stay on track when looking for that next opportunity. “They have to learn that there are things out there for them,” he said. “America has not given up on them and they have an opportunity to continue to succeed in life.”
PG&E has been recognized for five straight years as a Top-100 Military Friendly Employer by G.I. Jobs Magazine and as one of the best employers for veterans for the last two years by Military Times. The company’s strong commitment to veterans is evidenced by its “1,000 Careers Project,” a long-term program with the goal of hiring 1,000 veterans into PG&E careers over the next eight years. Since the program’s inception in 2015, PG&E has hired 455 veterans – close to half of its goal in nearly two years.
“The military and PG&E are very community-oriented and service-based,” said Jason Cameron, PG&E workforce development principal. “We’re about taking care of people in our community, keeping them safe and serving them in whatever way we can. Veterans are really a good fit for PG&E. The core values of the military and PG&E are very similar.”
“It’s definitely nice to see a company like PG&E supporting veterans,” said Iwuji, “and showing them there’s a lot of possibilities out there for us.”
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