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troop drawdown in Iraq shifts into high gear - virtually all of the 39,000 troops still in Iraq in October will be withdrawn by December 31.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

    Did you thank a Vet today? Probably not, but if you have the chance, today, you probably should

    November 12, 2011 at 4:32 am | Report abuse |
    • bluemax77

      When was the last time a stranger thanked you for doing your job..? Not lately I bet...

      November 12, 2011 at 5:56 am | Report abuse |
  2. Maltese Falcon

    Thank God for the Nazis.
    At least with them you know what you're dealing with.

    November 12, 2011 at 4:35 am | Report abuse |
  3. Maltese Falcon

    That's a Human Resource Manager, not a Murderer Resource Manager.

    November 12, 2011 at 4:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      huh? were you trying to be clever?

      November 12, 2011 at 4:46 am | Report abuse |
  4. Mark

    This is not a new problem; I am quite frankly stunned that they have not had a program in place to help them not only translate their skills but to provide a pathway to licensing or whatever they require.

    November 12, 2011 at 4:47 am | Report abuse |
  5. Maltese Falcon

    Es schauen aufs Hakenkreuz voll Hoffnung schon Millionen.

    November 12, 2011 at 5:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Your comment translates on Google to "It look out to the swastika with hope by millions." I'm not sure what that means and I'm a little afraid to find out.

      November 12, 2011 at 5:16 am | Report abuse |
  6. bluemax77

    Hell we’re all struggling to get jobs, you kidding..??

    November 12, 2011 at 5:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      And veterans have a 3 percent higher unemployment rate. A quarter a million vets struggling to make ends meet after getting out is unacceptable.

      November 12, 2011 at 5:28 am | Report abuse |
    • bluemax77

      It is what it is just like the rest of us. Last time I looked the armed forces were still an all volunteer force – welcome to our war...!!

      November 12, 2011 at 5:37 am | Report abuse |
  7. Bill

    We Need a Few Good Men. Until we're done with you and then you're on your own.

    November 12, 2011 at 5:14 am | Report abuse |
  8. amadeo122

    surprisingly enough there aren't any tea baggers saying to the vets that they are lazy and should go out there and get a job.

    November 12, 2011 at 5:19 am | Report abuse |
  9. duh duh duh

    of course they cant get jobs... they have NO skills that are relevant to the civilian world. what kind of job requires someone who can disarm bombs with a robot or fire mortars? dur dur dur!!!

    November 12, 2011 at 5:20 am | Report abuse |
    • George, New York

      duh duh duh,

      Have you always been this stupid? Military members have a better education than most of the middle class non-military. I was an aviation electrician in the Navy for 10 years. I worked on P3's and the C40, which is a Boeing 737-700 jet. The military has jobs in most every field that the civilian sector does.

      November 12, 2011 at 5:43 am | Report abuse |
    • George, New York

      FYI, I have a job and make a nice six figure income duh duh duh. I think you need to get back to Walmart and stock those shelves, it is almost black friday.

      November 12, 2011 at 5:46 am | Report abuse |
  10. amadeo122

    I heard they are hiring in Alabama these days to pick up crops.

    November 12, 2011 at 5:21 am | Report abuse |
  11. Justin H

    Here's a thought: maybe the military should use some of their massive budget for a transition program which serves as a transition period from active duty to civilian life and also provides whatever is needed to receive certifications in related fields – whether that means additional classroom or practical training, or just help with certification exams. Set them up for success by ensuring they have what they need to get a job before they become civilians.

    November 12, 2011 at 5:25 am | Report abuse |
  12. bluemax77

    With 20+ million illegals walking around unopposed, does anyone seriously expect to get a job...?

    November 12, 2011 at 5:30 am | Report abuse |
  13. KatyJ

    As a retired Vet, I'm saddened by some of the comments posted here. These young men and women have sacrificed volunteered to give their life so all of us enjoy the freedom of speech. They are the 1%. For most them it's kind of hard to get the education and training needed to tranistion to the Civilian Workforce in the battefield. A week in tranisition class doesn't prepare them for this job market. Hopefully, the VA and other Agencies will get on board to help these heroes out.

    November 12, 2011 at 6:18 am | Report abuse |
  14. Mind0fcha0s

    I personally think they shouldn't have to work again if they choose not to. They gave enough for the country to take care of them. If it wasn't for those men and women we wouldn't have the freedom to choose a career. Taking. Care of them shouldn't even be a issue after what they gave,lost and are still going through. Thanks goes to all those who have served. God bless you all

    November 12, 2011 at 6:20 am | Report abuse |
    • bluemax77

      Just what America needs, more free-loaders...

      November 12, 2011 at 6:36 am | Report abuse |
  15. rex edie

    the truth is ......when you are in the sht....there is only one way to deal with it.... and when you come out and have to work for spoiled arrogant punks that dont know what reality is.... and have no clue... it can wear your patience...(whats left of it thin) vets...(and i wasnt in combat...but was trained to eat my own grandma if they said so.) are fckd up....because ...when you are ordered to jump .....you dont ask...you do.... but ..when you come back to "society" and are told to jump just because some ..@%#%#$*@ wants to jerk your chain .....it .... messes with you....

    November 12, 2011 at 6:38 am | Report abuse |
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