Vern Wungnema brought his veteran status and computer technology skills to Carson City’s job fair Friday to make the rounds early and meet prospective employers.
Wungnema, a Carson City native and Native American of Cherokee/Hopi heritage, said he was in the Marine Corps twice, serving in Somalia first and then two tours in Iraq. He worked and then returned to school after his second time in the military, earning his computer tech credentials in 2014.
He said his two times as a Marine included service from 1991-96 and again from 2002-2006, the second time prompted by 9/11 in 2001. He said he worked in retailing after the second tour but went back to school during the recession. He said he decided then to take President Barack Obama’s advice.
“‘If you can’t find work, try to go to school,’” he quoted the president as saying during the nation’s economic swoon. He said he didn’t figure it made sense to question the commander-in-chief’s advice at that point.
Now with his relatively recent degree from Western Nevada College he thinks his chances in the job market are improved. While at the job fair, which let veterans in a half hour before others, he talked with representatives of state and city government, along with other prospective employers, while making the rounds in the Carson City Community Center’s gymnasium. The entire event ran from 1:30-4:30 p.m.
Job fairs are held periodically there, sponsored by the city’s Health and Human Services and the local Chamber of Commerce, although the first one was held almost three years ago at the city’s Senior Center.
Mary Jane Ostrander, human services division manager, mentioned that as Friday’s event opened and she recounted successes of the past half dozen job fairs.
“Maybe up to five employers and a handful of job seekers” had attended such fairs before she and Lynn Ellis, HHS workforce coordinator, ran them and the first one they did at the senior center was overflowing.
“The senior center was overcrowded and we had to literally count job seekers in order to stay within fire code,” said Ostrander. “Now it has grown to what you see today.”
Ellis, retiring soon, went over some of the statistics. The six job fairs before Friday’s resulted in at least 315 job seekers finding employment and had attracted thousands in the aggregate, often near 500. Each event featured up to or more than 50 potential employers. Ellis added outside of the job fairs, she also had helped 121 people who took her HHS workforce classes find jobs.
Ostrander said Ellis would be “missed dearly” and announced Ana Gregg will take over as interim workforce coordinator at HHS.