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Norwich Bulletin – By Jaclyn Diaz – April 22. 2016 2:37PM

When he left the military in 1998, he said it was easy to find a job in his field.

Now, at 43, Kochok has been out of work for six months.

To get a leg up on the job search, he and about 50 other local veterans, attended Electric Boat’s career fair for current and past military personnel Friday morning at the Branford House on the UConn Avery Point campus. Kochok was hoping to make connections to figure out his next career move.

He said he found out about the from a job center in Willimantic.

“I thought I’d give it a try,” he said. “I want a job because obviously I can’t just sit at home.”

In addition to EB and General Dynamic tables offering information on open positions and training programs to get veterans prepared to enter the workforce, the Department of Labor was on hand disseminating information about veterans’ services, which include resume assistance and interview tips.

EB hosted the event in response to an increased workforce demand not seen in years at the Groton shipbuilding company. The company is hiring thousands of workers to fill positions as engineers, machinists, carpenters, painters, welders and administrative roles as the U.S. military strategy turns back to submarines. As many as 850 high-skilled manufacturing and other jobs are being filled this year and an estimated 4,000 in the next 15 years, creating a workforce of 18,000 at the Groton and Quonset Point, R.I., sites. Between 275 and 300 employees retire each year at EB.

“There’s no question that this is a huge net growth in terms of the state. It’s a huge economic driver in terms of this region. These are high-quality jobs with good wages and benefits,” U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, said in a speech before the event.

Dustin Guidry, 27, James Knapp, 28, and Brian Cowde, 26, instructors at the Groton submarine base, said the job fair came at a perfect time.

“We’re trying to learn how to transition, we’re all getting out (of the Navy) relatively soon and we want to prepare,” Guidry said.

The fair offered them an opportunity to network, he said.

“The military is such a small community. You get isolated a bit from the civilian community,” he said.

James Hutchins, with the Department of Labor veterans workforce development, said it’s sometimes difficult for some military men and women to find jobs quickly after their service.

“Some of those folks don’t have enough transferrable job skills. We’re in our own culture, that’s why having events like this is so important. It gives veterans the opportunity to develop those social networks you don’t have in the service,” he said.

Maura Dunn, vice president of human resources and administration at EB, said 20 percent of the workforce at the submarine manufacturer was made up of veterans. EB is attracted to hiring former military personnel because they offer skills and values not always seen in civilian employees, Dunn said.

“From my perspective the veterans that come into EB come in with an increased work ethic which is such a vital part of EB,” she said. “They come in almost seamlessly.”