Why many vets are struggling to get jobs
Some troops’ skills are great for civilian jobs, but licensing and jargon sometimes keep them from getting offers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says.
November 11th, 2011
01:29 PM ET

Why many vets are struggling to get jobs

They worked in some of the most adverse conditions in the world, often achieving their missions while under fire on the battlefield. But while the men and women of the U.S. military are highly trained in job skills and leadership, their experience doesn't always immediately translate into jobs in the civilian sector.

(Click the audio player to hear more on this story from CNN Radio's Steve Kastenbaum)

The unemployment rate among veterans of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is several points higher than the national average. The unemployment rate for veterans who left the military after 2001 was 12.1% last month, leaving about 240,000 veterans out of work, according to the White House. The national jobless rate is 9%, according the Department of Labor.

Fourteen percent of veterans who served in the National Guard or Reserve units are jobless, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s largest business association.

And the rate is worse for all post-9/11 veterans under the age of 24, said Kevin Schmiegel, the chamber’s vice president of veterans’ employment programs. "Roughly one out of every four in that cohort is out of a job," he said.

Veterans’ unemployment rate is expected to rise as the U.S. troop drawdown in Iraq shifts into high gear - virtually all of the 39,000 troops still in Iraq in October will be withdrawn by December 31. Also, about 100,000 National Guard members and reservists will be demobilized in the coming months. Most of those men and women will enter the civilian job market.

The U.S. House next week is expected to pass a bill - already passed by the Senate - that will give employers up to a $5,600 tax credit for hiring a veteran who has been unemployed for six months.

But the incentive may not be enough for many veterans to get a job.

Recent veterans have a hard time translating their training and experience into terms that a human resources manager can understand, Schmiegel said.

"What they often do ... when they stand in front of employers is they use military jargon, and it becomes confusing to HR managers who may have not served in the military and don't understand the value of hiring a veteran," Schmiegel said.

Schmiegel said veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have a tremendous amount of training and experience, but the private sector requires paperwork to prove it.

"We have young men and women, thousands and thousands of them, that have driven trucks and heavy machinery in the military, but they can't go immediately into a private sector job because they don't have a credential or a license in that state," Schmiegel said. "You have corpsmen and medics in the Navy and the Army who can't get jobs as (emergency medical technicians) in the private sector working at hospitals and the like because they have to go through rigorous credentialing and licensing. So, we have to start looking at doing those things before they leave [the military]."

The bill that the House is expected to pass next week, besides offering tax incentives to hire veterans, also would attempt to address the licensing obstacle. The bill would create a project directing the Labor Department to figure out ways for veterans to use their specialized training to get licenses in different fields in the civilian work force.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is helping veterans sell themselves to potential employers with a program called Hire Our Heroes. They're putting on 100 job fairs across the country as they try to match qualified veterans with job openings in their areas.

K.C. Baney showed up at one of those job fairs in New Jersey a few weeks ago. The 36-year-old from Island Heights, New Jersey, spent 10 years in the U.S. Army and served in some of the most dangerous places in the world. "It was time to be around for my two little girls and stop being shot at, so it was time to carve a new path in life," Baney said.

He knew he was entering a tough job market for veterans. The challenge for Baney was taking what he learned in his military training and experience in Iraq and Afghanistan and making it applicable to a civilian work environment. "A lot of that gets lost in translation, if you will, between some companies not really understanding what you did and what you went through, and what you're able to achieve, perform and provide to a company in the civilian sector."

Baney wound up being hired by Hecht Trailers in Toms River, New Jersey. The family-run business rents, sells and repairs just about everything that can be hooked up to a trailer hitch. Manager Mark Blue said they hired three veterans that they met at the Hire Our Heroes job fair.

"They want to come to work every single day. They're hard-working because they've been brought up that way through their military," Blue said.

- CNNMoney's Jennifer Liberto contributed to this report.

You can listen to the CNN Radio Reports podcast on itunes or subscribe to the podcast here.

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Filed under: Economy • Jobs • Military • Veterans • War
soundoff (296 Responses)
  1. William Nett

    There's a great deal of difference between the way government looks at resumes and the way civilian companies look at resumes. In my TAP class, (Transition Assistance Program) we were told to build, pad, and fluff that resume. The more info the better! If you saw it, touched it, heard of it, put it on your resume! Of course in reality, you have 30 seconds to grab a recruiter's eyes, an 11 page resume is going to get filed into the bit bucket. It took me a while to learn this which made leaving the military after 10 years very challenging. Once that got sorted out and I knew my civilian career path, getting jobs was much easier.

    November 11, 2011 at 8:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • bill

      I agree, when I was going thru TAP I was told the same thing...Make your resume shine and tell those employers every little detail about your and your training...Problem was I wasn't getting any job offers...So I took my resume to civilian company that deals in resumes, job interview tips, etc. I walked in with a huge resume and walked out with a single page resume. Needless to say I was less than impressed until I started getting call backs from employers....The problem with TAPs is that it is being conducted by people who haven't had to look for employement in years and thus are out of touch with what employers want and need to know.

      November 11, 2011 at 8:12 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Willie Bee

    Most Americans see veterans as ticking time bombs. This comes from the Vietnam era when Hollywood and TV producers, mostly of the World War II Greatest Generation portayed ALL Vietnam veterans as drug-crazed, psychopathic, crazed murdering losers. The American public willingly went accepted this myth which still persists and will by the deliberate choice of most Americans continue ad infinitum.

    November 11, 2011 at 8:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hinterarsch

      They are time bombs. It is not their fault but that is what our Government trained them to be , killers. Now you think that like turning a light switch these poor guys can be brought back into our daily routines. Only Washington smok heads think this can be done. Obama is a fu..... brain waist from Haravard and has no common sense not one gram of it.

      November 11, 2011 at 8:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mr. Wizard

      that is just not true, Americans can't be lumped into such a broad ridiculous statement. Speak for yourself not the rest of us. I agree with the earlier comment that military skills are often not directly transferrable to civilian life without paper credentials. What is true is that in today’s society experience only counts as being superior if the paper backs it up. That wasn't the world I grew up in but things change. I've got 40 years of industrial experience, traveled the world for 15 years and outperform 95% of my colleges every day because of it. But management does not consider my worth in the same way as a papered engineer and we just better get used to it. I've even been the President of a small engineering company for 6 years but after the 9/11 fraudulent terrorist attack I had to take a low paying job working for a Chinese company just to survive. They are liars, cheaters and thief’s but a guy has to eat.
      Government isn't interested in doing anything that doesn't promote their agenda. That is why we need less government; it's a monster out of control. The military has screwed it's veterans for decades without conscience and will continue to use them in any way it's sees fit. Their lives are cheap. How many examples do you need to figure it out. I enjoyed my navy tour during the 70's but I learned transferrable skills and have had success putting that training to good use. I would never recommend anyone joining today. Why give your life so Halliburton and Cheney can get rich?

      November 11, 2011 at 8:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Clark Nova

      Couldn't agree more. I couldn't get a job for five years after coming back from Nam and I blame the entertainment industry and corporate mainstream news for that.

      November 11, 2011 at 8:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      @ Hinterarch


      November 11, 2011 at 10:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • George, New York


      Are you aware that the majority of Military members have jobs just like civilians? Most never see combat and are not "ticking time bombs" as you say. Maybe back in the Vietnam Era it was different but today the Military has jobs in almost every area that civilians do. I also work with a few guys that were on the front lines in Iraq and they are not time bombs, they are good people and great employees. I served 10 years in the Navy myself so I think I know what I'm saying.

      November 12, 2011 at 5:57 am | Report abuse |
  3. leeintulsa

    When i was in the navy, one of my jobs was refueling c-12s. I parked everything from a-4s to p-3s on the transit line. After i got out, i couldn't get a job parking or fueling planes at any local airports, ie dfw, love field, the one in ft worth, any. They wanted commercial experience..

    I got NMS from the navy. No Marketable Skill.

    November 11, 2011 at 8:17 pm | Report abuse |
  4. RDKirk

    The predominant military occupations of these veterans–killing people, breaking things, and directing those who do–simply don't have direct entry-level civlian counterparts. These people may have learned excellent high-stress-environment managerial skills–but there are few entry-level high-stress-environment managerial jobs.

    November 11, 2011 at 8:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • OneOfTheSheep

      I guess those in weather, food service, transportation, logistics, mechanics, drivers, IT people, electronics experts, hospital personnel, i.e. all the specialists, etc. that are integral to a modern military force, are all "damaged goods too?

      If you're really an American, I'm ashamed of you.

      November 11, 2011 at 11:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mikelike


      If you're really an American, I'm ashamed of you.
      He's not, not a real person either.

      November 12, 2011 at 1:17 am | Report abuse |
    • George, New York

      You are very ignorant!!!

      ig·no·rant/ˈignərənt/Adjective: 1.Lacking knowledge or awareness in general; uneducated or unsophisticated.

      November 12, 2011 at 6:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Jules

      Not sure that the main jobs of the army are breaking things and killing people. You obviously don't know of the myriad of other jobs in the military like purchasing of equipment etc, logistics, intelligence analysis, language skills, nursing/ER, public affairs etc etc. Most of these skills are transferable to the civilian world. Also, like someone else pointed out on this post, many of these military are active reservists/national guards who hold civilain jobs ranging from business, science, teaching, to engineering, law etc.

      November 12, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Maddy

    And you have completely taken everything I have said the wrong way.
    I, Med, do not suck at the teat of anything, but I suspect that you just wanted to write that word.
    I honor the true veterans that have served, today and everyday, and I venture a guess that you have never served anything except french fries to those who order them.
    Now let the adults talks, you little pansy.

    November 11, 2011 at 8:22 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Judy75201

    Vets can't get civilian jobs because the jobs are not done the same way in the civilian world; there is a disconnect. I know from experience (Air Force, Medical Administration, 1978-1982). Your training in a government environment will not help you in the civilian world. Sux, don't it?

    November 11, 2011 at 8:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • George, New York

      That is wrong Judy. Aviation Electrician 1997- 2007. I got a six figure electronics job within 3 months of leaving the Navy with no college. Maybe you just did not know your job?

      November 12, 2011 at 6:04 am | Report abuse |
  7. Maddy

    And I am certainly not anti-vet, although with you, I can make an exception, teat-boy.

    November 11, 2011 at 8:26 pm | Report abuse |
  8. SFC K

    The truth is that Businesses are in the business of making money and not providing Jobs. When hiring, employers do not prefer to employ a reservist because of the high possibility they will be lost to mobilization. Also employers are not happy that the Service member will be obligated to Duty one weekend a month and 2 weeks a year, and these absences cannot be counted against them. Employers by law are obligated to reorginize there schedule to comply with the Service members duty schedule. If you look at applications for example 3M, Purina, Alcoa, and many more, they specifically ask if the applicant is subject to Duty. Also as for promotions within the company, this Reserve duty is a definate factor which many employers take into account. They will pass over Service members for promotion. As an employer how would you like to know that your MVP is subject to be pulled away from you, and will be manditorally absent from work, and you cant do anything about it. I feel that it should be illegal to have to explain on an application if you are a reserve Service member. There is no doubt that prejiduce to Reservists exists and is carefully considered for hireing, promotions and lay offs. Too many companies and employers claim to be patriotic, but make no mistake about it, they are all 2 faced when it comes to there wallets. And for thoes of you who think I am angry and dont have any ground to stand on. Wake up from your perfect world. Knobody has the right to reply to this unless you are an enlisted reservists who has obviously seen this amongst your fellow Soldiers and Sailors.

    November 11, 2011 at 8:31 pm | Report abuse |
  9. USNavyVet

    Sorry to tell you, TAP class is useless. You will need to go to a civilian company and have them translate your experience into "civilianese". Focus on your leadership, teams you lead, personnel skills etc etc...field stripping an m-16 and marching in the desert might get you a job as a boy scout leader. There is a reason why majority of army are grunts (cannon fodder) and majority of sailors are deck hands...they had no skills or much intelligence coming in, and they leave the same way, Stop blaming the military for that. I had an old chief give me the best bit of advice I ever had...YOU make your career, whether it is military or civilian. You need more skill? Go to school...4 years in the military gets you the GI Bill, go get a degree. This is not the country of our grandparents where sitting on a manufacturing line is good enough...robots do all that work...this country needs highly skilled people, and we are sorely lacking in that department. I did my ten years in the Navy, and have worked another 10 years as a civilian in the DoD...the jobs are there if you train yourself...there are no free handouts...even to us who served.

    November 11, 2011 at 8:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mr. Wizard

      "majority of sailors are deck hands" not in my navy, where the hell were you stationed? Deck hands only comprised one division, there were dozens more that were required to have trained skills to operate their stations and divisions that were capable of much more than painting. If the majority were deck hands how did you ever get underway? I spent 4 years on sub tenders and deck hands were only one small group.

      November 11, 2011 at 8:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • George, New York

      Hmmmm, We did not have any Deck Hands at either of the Navy Squadrons I was in, VP-92 and VR-58. Maybe that was the case back in the 40's -50's when you were enlisted.

      November 12, 2011 at 6:09 am | Report abuse |
  10. mcstang007

    OR (now here me out) Get rid of illegal aliens!

    November 11, 2011 at 8:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • buck cameron

      Yeah, that'll work, as our crops rot in the field.

      November 12, 2011 at 2:05 am | Report abuse |
  11. jimbo

    Why? Easy. It's the same negative perception private companies have of hiring civil service personnel.

    November 11, 2011 at 8:38 pm | Report abuse |
  12. SFC K

    I have been a reservist for 21 years of my 2 years in service. Any remarks of ticking time bombs, going postal, and any non corilating jobs is an excuse that holds no ground. Servive members departing from there active duty contract and mobilization are offered (if not manditory like my unit) counseling for re integration. As for jobs not coorlating that is HOG WASH! When the economy is up and the economy cannot find enough skilled trade workers, unions and shops will hire anyone with the bare basic skills as Journeymen. When the economy is down they will still hire people, but make them start at a lowest level entyr position so they dont have to pay a higher wage.

    November 11, 2011 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Clark Nova

    Actually , those numbers aren't as bad as they look. They're probably honest percentages while the 9% unemployment figure has been manipulated down from over 20% by eliminating entire classes of unemployed people from inclusion. Using the metrics used to determine unemployment during the Clinton administration, our real unemployment rate is 21%. Right up there with the Great Depression.

    November 11, 2011 at 8:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mr. Wizard

      just more valid reasons why not to trust what our government says, it is self serving.

      November 11, 2011 at 8:46 pm | Report abuse |
  14. David

    This is why I'm so glad I left the military early. The reason many of us volunteered is because we wanted to better ourselves by earning a college money and military training. Now maybe that doesn't sound as "self-sacrificing" as saying I want to serve my country...but it's hardly a dishonorable reason to want to better yourself. And it's more than a fair tradeoff considering you could be killed so some US company can get ahold of some other countries natural resources. But the reality for veterans that you will have a much harder time finding work when you come back. And honestly, I don't think politicians or the american people care all that much. If they do, they certainly aren't doing anything about it as the 12% figure shows (wonder if that number includes all the homeless vets who can't even get to an interview). Nope, I'm too smart to let this country take advantage of me. Now I have to get back to job hunting...and thanks to leaving the military early, I have around a 3% better chance of finding work.

    November 11, 2011 at 8:50 pm | Report abuse |
  15. holly

    Get the FACTS! Illegal aliens networking steals jobs from ALL AMERICANS. google NumbersUSA

    November 11, 2011 at 9:00 pm | Report abuse |
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