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U.S. troop drawdown in Iraq shifts into high gear - virtually all of the 39,000 troops still in Iraq in October will be withdrawn by December 31.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. Disabled

    The reason they can't find jobs is because they're too high of a liability. They come with all kinds of baggage, physical, emotional and otherwise. You can't go into the military and come out undamaged.

    November 11, 2011 at 9:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Perfect Name for You

      To Disabled: Perfect name for you. You have no idea what you say.

      November 11, 2011 at 9:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Earnan

      "Disabled" is the sort of whining loser who couldn't hack it in the military.

      Most likely never had the balls to even try.

      But it loves to whine.

      November 11, 2011 at 9:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jessy

      You've never been in the military have you? Obviously you haven't. Veterans are no liability. The liability is the lack of translating their skills in the battlefield into a meaningless certificate that hardly gets you a job. I was in the United States Air force for just one term. During that time, I was a pharmacy technician. I did my job well there and I was proud of it. When I left, none of those skills mattered because no civilian pharmacy would ever hire an skilled pharmacy technician so long as I didn't have a license. I took the test for the license and I got it. Guess what, it was useless because apparently there are too many pharmacy technicians in the civilian world.

      I then cross trained to be a medical biller and even a medical assistant by expanding my experience in the medical field that was started in the military. Once again, I was disappointed. Too many medical billers and far too many medical assistants flood the medical field. It sucked.

      November 11, 2011 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • TexanAirman

      Seriously? I left 6 years in the military with nothing wrong with me....unless you want to count organized, disciplined and motivated as 'baggage'. You my friend, are the disabled one...great name choice though!

      November 11, 2011 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • pat carr

      well i'd rather hire a vet than someone like you

      November 11, 2011 at 9:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • letsgomets2011

      License, schmicense.

      I remember the days when pharm techs TRAINED on the job! Now it's a whole rigamarole to go out and get a dang license, that's not quite needed in the first place???

      Same goes for phlebotomists, CNAs and other low-level allied health jobs: yu used to be able to TRAIN ON THE JOB for occupations like those.

      And I remember the days when CNAs used to be called orderlies (or ward clerks or another term) - those jobs were usually held by nursing students, allied health students or others going into the medical profession. now it's 10 pounds of BS in a half pound bag.

      Sheesh....Things were fine before the license requirement. I vote they get rid of it.

      November 11, 2011 at 9:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • abby

      heifer dust.

      November 11, 2011 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Navy/Army Vet Here

      Disabled..... Some people should not share their ignorant opinions....Perhaps you could educate yourself on the military before making such opinons so you don't seem so out of touch with reality.

      November 11, 2011 at 10:14 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jimi

    Many people go into the armed forces as a last resort – they can't find a job anywhere else. It shouldnt be so surprising that when they come out they have the same problem. I'm not criticizing them, just stating a fact. I don't believe military service changes many people – what goes in comes out a few yeard older but otherwise the same in most cases.

    November 11, 2011 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • leeintulsa

      Your premise is whack. Most people *i* know that joined the military did it for reasons beyond a job..

      November 11, 2011 at 9:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jimi

      You mustnt know many poor kids in the south then

      November 11, 2011 at 9:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bryant

      Just stating a fact? Please list your references. With it being a "fact" there should be plenty of information to prove your statement. Oh, what? You're just talking out your azz? Oh, I see; it's a "fact" you're an idiot.

      November 11, 2011 at 10:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Teri

      This is common knowledge. Yes, there are people who want to be in the military and had that desire from a young age, but the greater majority do join because they have no other options. I was married to a soldier and it was common knowledge at the time. I still live in a military town and work in HR. We have ex-military come in all the time looking for work and wanting us to train them. The problem is – none have any real job skills and most can't even put together a resume or fill out an application. You'd be surprised at the number that bring their wives and kids with them. I guess they think it will make us more likely to hire them if we see the family. I'm not talking about career-military who have retired, but those in their late 20's and 30's who have served a few years. A lot end up going back in because they can't find employment in the civilian world. That and if they do, it's nowhere near the same standard of living because they no longer get the perks they were getting while in.

      November 11, 2011 at 10:35 pm | Report abuse |
  3. dejah

    Disabled, you must belong to the GOP. Or maybe you're a young republican; you know, one of those guys who sits in the frat house but never bothers to serve our country?

    You sound ignorant.

    November 11, 2011 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bryant

      And when did you serve? Or any of the last couple democratic Presidents?

      November 11, 2011 at 10:22 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Dan B.

    As a veteran who completed my honorable service in 1993, I can testify to the validity of this article. The best advice I can give anyone contemplating getting out of the service is this:

    1) Make copies of all the training you have received (Both Formal and Informal)
    2) Make copies of all certificates received from military training
    3) Make copies of your (DD-214 long form), if you claim veteran status you will need these as proof.

    No Later than 6 months to one year before you get out of the military start looking at job postings in the field of work you are interested in. As you read all the civilian job posting, list the experience employers are looking for you obtained while in the military. Mirroring your military experience to civilian experience is not that difficult. There are a variety of ways to do this. However, the easiest of ways to accomplish this is to list the positions you held in reverse cronologically. See example:

    9/2008 to Present: Work Center Supervisor (Airframes NCOIC or Airframes POIC) and then list what you did in that capacity of that position. You trained, you assigned work, you coached, you met or exceeded expectations of operational commitments. Give examples of maximizing your resourses assigned to you. Employers are bottom line driven. If you saved the military X amount in dollars, list the amount you saved annually. If you reduced the time it took to perform a job, list it as increased productivity by X% by process improvements.

    Your resume should sum up who you are and what you are hoping to get from the resume. I do this by listing my career objective below my name and address:

    A culturally diverse professional with over 23 years of aerospace experience, who fully understands all of the intricacies pertaining to aerospace maintenance, operations manufacturing and quality assurance requirements. I create baseline by which to measure existing performance of cost(s), quality assurance, and schedule so that sound adjustments can be made to maximize resources. I utilize customer surveys for feedback to address areas of concern, thus developing close working relationships with all internal and external groups to meet or exceed business goals and believe that the greatest assets of any company are its people.

    You've got exactly 2-3 minutes to impress someone that doesn't know you via a resume. Remember bottom line is what businesses understand. Show how you separate yourself from the pack.

    November 11, 2011 at 9:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • TexanAirman

      Lemme guess....Crew Chief turned to the Dark Side of QA? lol....Prior E&E here.

      November 11, 2011 at 9:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan B.

      Actually, I was an Egress/Environmental Mechanic on A-6/EA-6B and F-18 for the Marine Corps. Later, I was the Air Frames Division Chief for a squadron and then I went into QA.

      November 11, 2011 at 10:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan B.

      Then I worked for Boeing as a first and second level Manager. Now I freelance in Quality Assurance for defense contracts.

      November 11, 2011 at 10:21 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Saiorse

    To all you Vet's on this board I just want to say thanks for your service and well done! I hope we all can get some jobs and to the employers out there; our military veterans have discipline, a strong work ethic and they care about others first,... I think that qualifies them over most! Slainte

    November 11, 2011 at 9:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cmarie

      You are right on.

      November 11, 2011 at 9:51 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Cointreau

    Defense Support Services hires Vets for military and government jobs...www.ds2.com Happy Veterans Day to all active military and Veterans...

    November 11, 2011 at 9:22 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Andrea

    All I can say is if they cant find work our goverment, tax dollars that means you and I should do what we can do to give them all the suport they need to live a comfortable life. They put their lives on the line so we have the freedom that we have.............. i want to thank all the vets that fought for my freedom.... give them job or help take care of them. im willing are you????

    November 11, 2011 at 9:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Disabled


      November 11, 2011 at 9:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jimi

      Nope – they voluntarily took a job and were well paid for doing ti. How are they different to anyone else who is unemployed?

      November 11, 2011 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • pat carr

      yes at least for a while. many of them aren't "well paid"

      November 11, 2011 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bb

      How much you forking over every month?

      November 11, 2011 at 9:50 pm | Report abuse |
  8. mm

    The military should have a program to train and certify these vets (in their home States) for at least one year after they get out of the military. And they should be paid while they are being trained and being certified and preparing for the civilian transition. These people did no much for our country and the world, the least our government can do is help them to make the transition back to civilian life.

    November 11, 2011 at 9:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Novel thought, but as former military myself, I'm not sure it would be realistic... that is pretty expensive of a proposal. I think there is a cheaper, yet more effective path. The SEPS/TAPS class (Separations/Transitional Assistance Program) I took lasted a whole 3 days. It is during this time that they "civilianize" you and teach you about benefits/job hunting/translating your experience to employers/resumes/etc... 3 days is pants-on-head retarded. It is obvious that the current SEPS/TAPS program is nothing more than a quick-fix PR bandaid. Revamping it into a REAL program that lasted a few weeks – that 90% of separating servicemembers didn't sleep through because it was so useless – that seems promising.

      November 11, 2011 at 10:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Teri

      Or they can make use of their GI Bill. I think that was the intention behind it.

      November 11, 2011 at 10:37 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Tony

    Didn't need to read the story. The reason no one has jobs is corporations sent them all overseas. The reason they sent them overseas is they don't care about anything but money. If a corporation had a mother it would sell her.

    November 11, 2011 at 9:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Yeah, but thats not what the piece was about. There is a disproportionate unemployment gap between vets and non-vets. If foreign outsourcing was the sole problem, there would be no gap – everyone would be on the same level of "screwed".

      November 11, 2011 at 10:08 pm | Report abuse |
  10. abby

    These men and women are hard-working people, willing to put their lives on the line for this nation. They can work under adverse conditions and work long hours. They can put up with all sorts of garbage handed out to them. They can handle high levels of stress. They know how to get things done. It use to be a matter of pride that companies hired veterans. Now companies prefer to send their work overseas instead of hiring Americans. Sad, isn't it?

    November 11, 2011 at 9:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Teri

      Yes, it used to be a source of pride, but so did serving in the military. Now, there is no pride associated with it because it has quickly become an occupation choice for people who have no other real options.

      November 11, 2011 at 10:42 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Cmarie

    The Vets struggloe to find jobs because there are NO job like the ones they did in the military. Honor, professionalism, work ethic...they miss all of the attributes the military job had and none of the civilian jobs offer the same fulfillment. God Bless Vetrerans

    November 11, 2011 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Lliam

    All military veterans having an assigned military job code should have an equivalent license issued by the the US Government – period.

    November 11, 2011 at 9:50 pm | Report abuse |
  13. holly

    Wondering who has your job? You might be surprised. ...illegal aliens are networking across the US. google NumbersUSA

    November 11, 2011 at 10:04 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Todd

    FYI, Just because you served in the military does not mean you get a job automatically when you return to the USA. Those who joined the military most likely did because they could not get a job in the USA. Why should that qualify them for a job now?

    November 11, 2011 at 10:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • RT

      The majority of those who joined the military did so right out of high school or college NOT as a last resort! Sounds like you don't value the freedoms that they served for.

      November 11, 2011 at 10:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Check your hostility at the door, broseph.

      "Why should that qualify them for a job now?"

      Because they have MINIMUM of 4 years experience operating/maintaining equipment, electronics, communications systems, industrial, etc experience than the untrained 18 year old/illegal immigrant who got the job instead.

      What, you think all military service is running around shooting brown people and jumping on grenades? You can't possibly be that simple...

      November 11, 2011 at 10:12 pm | Report abuse |
  15. RT

    According to Herman Cain....if you don't have a job and your not rich.....blame yourself. Guess being a soldier for a mere pennance each year and then going through two wars only to have a reduction in force is their own fault... BS! I blame Herman Cain and the other CEO's who make millions each year and can't or won't hire these veterans for a livable wage after they've served our country!

    November 11, 2011 at 10:08 pm | Report abuse |
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