Jobless US vets say military experience not valued

Sat Oct 29, 2011 3:50pm EDT

Related Topics

* Vet jobless rate 2.6 pct higher than general population

* As wars wind down, lawmakers and groups focus on issue

By Roy Strom

NAPERVILLE, Ill, Oct 29 (Reuters) - When Matthew Burrell left the U.S. Army after eight years of service, he landed a job as a public relations contractor in Iraq. With a salary of $170,000, he figured military experience had finally paid off.

But five months after returning home to Chicago, 33-year-old Burrell is unemployed and his search for a job in the private sector has left him disheartened.

Despite having six years of experience as a public relations officer in the Army, he said he is treated as though he had just graduated from college.

"I can tell you for a fact that definitely in my field in public relations and marketing, private-sector companies do not value (military experience)," Burrell said.

Burrell, along with many of what the Department of Labor says are 235,000 unemployed veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, has run into a vexing problem.

Many U.S. companies, and sometimes veterans themselves, do not know how to translate military experience into civilian skills. There is a disconnect between companies demanding a college degree and veterans giving confusing descriptions of their military experience to civilian employers.

That disconnect has contributed to veterans having an unemployment rate 2.6 percent higher than the general population, according to September's Bureau of Labor Statistics unemployment report.

As U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan winds down, lawmakers and organizations are starting to address the issue.

The Obama administration this week announced steps that include encouraging community health centers to hire 8,000 veterans over the next three years, and improving training opportunities for military medics to become physician assistants.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said it hopes to get 15,000 veterans hired through 100 job fairs around the country for veterans this year. One of those job fairs was held recently in Naperville, a Chicago suburb, giving 86 companies the chance to meet more than 600 veterans.


One problem is that veterans need to explain more clearly to companies the value of their experience, said Kevin Schmiegel, vice president of veterans' employment programs at the Chamber of Commerce.

Hiring managers who have not served in the military are often bewildered by the jargon used by soldiers and weapons specialists, said Becky Brillon, who heads a program at the Community Career Center in Naperville.

A military job title might be listed like this: "25 Romeo visual and media equipment operator and maintainer."

"If somebody was artillery, or a sharpshooter or a sniper, you have to tone that down in the civilian world. It's more about being detail-oriented, precise and focused," she said.

On the flip side, private employers should give more credit to the experience and skills veterans acquire in the military, Schmiegel said.

Some military jobs, like a mechanic or technician, are fairly easily adapted to the private sector. But military credentials and certificates for other forms of training do not seem to carry much weight.

Rick Combs, a 27-year-old who retired as a sergeant in the Army, says he was given management training in the military. So far that training has not translated into a comparable private-sector job.

"You can come in, and slap something down that says, 'Here, the military says I can lead people. Give me a department and I will make it dance for you,'" Combs said. "I haven't had the opportunity on the civilian side yet."

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Comments (122)
DaMaynard wrote:
This is not new. It is the same as when I got out 20 years ago. I was Security police in the Air Force. When I got out and approached civilian police departments even the San Antonio Police Department who used to train at our academy treated me like I was a glorified security guard even though I patrolled wrote drunk driving tickets investigated drug use and theft and responded to domestic disturbances in addition to these common police duties I had combat experience. Could I get a job? no either the quota for white people was filled for the year (LAPD 1991)in January no less, I could not speak Spanish, (San Antonio PD 1990) and they refused to teach me. Border Patrol, again I didn’t speak Spanish I was not even interviewed. I remember the letter. ” As a agent for the Immigration and Naturalization Service, You are required to interact with people from other countries. It is noted that you do not speak Spanish and therefore do not meet the requirements for the position of Border Patrol Agent.” I was floored never mind the fact that I do speak German and passing Italian. What these people do not come into contact with INS Agents? I realize that it was a different time but the story is the same. That is why there are so many homeless vets in America.

Oct 29, 2011 6:48pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
asacan wrote:
I am an unemployed vet. I attended Transition Assistance Program (TAP). They covered a lot of stuff. The thing is, people JUST ARE NOT HIRING. I did have one job interview where a supervisor claimed that I had no idea what leadership was because in the military people are forced to do what we say; it was obvious he had no military experience. So the President is coming up with more “plans” to get us hired?! I’m sure it’s going to cost taxpayers billions of dollars more for a handful of jobs. Let’s put it this way, we’re ALL better off not getting one bit of help from a man who has never, ever been involved with job creation. He hasn’t got a clue. It seems that all of his plans involve funneling more taxpayer money to the unions, which then get funneled back to his (and the Democrats) campaigns.

Oct 29, 2011 6:56pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
AbnRanger wrote:
“The Department of Labor says are 235,000 unemployed veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.”

“Veterans have an unemployment rate 2.6 percent higher than the general population, according to September’s Bureau of Labor Statistics unemployment report.”

Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have an overall unemployment rate of 8 percent. National Guard and Reserve veterans do have a unemployment rate of about 12 percent because companies do not like to hire Guard and Reserve because their military service often takes them away from their work. Active Duty and Retired veterans have no problem finding jobs. Today’s soldiers come from the upper 25 percent of high school graduates. The vast majority of Soldiers leave the service much better men than when they joined. Often non-veterans show disrespect towards veterans because they compete for jobs. Veterans have the advantage.
I would say the numbers given in this article are false, do not believe everything you read in the main stream media, remember most reporters are ultra liberal and hate the Military.

Oct 29, 2011 7:07pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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