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Archive for Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Job market not so easy for veterans

September 28, 2011

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Many veterans coming back from Iraq or Afghanistan are choosing to go back to college to earn a degree instead of searching for a job in the down economy.  Some of those veterans attending KU are, front row from left,  Katherine Robinson, Andrew Foster, Kyle Brown and Sara Sneath; back row from left: Jake Robinson, Drew Beets and Stewart Melton.

Many veterans coming back from Iraq or Afghanistan are choosing to go back to college to earn a degree instead of searching for a job in the down economy. Some of those veterans attending KU are, front row from left, Katherine Robinson, Andrew Foster, Kyle Brown and Sara Sneath; back row from left: Jake Robinson, Drew Beets and Stewart Melton.

When Andrew Foster got out of the Navy a few years ago, his skills at working on a radar missile guidance system helped him land a California job for Starbucks fixing espresso machines.

The 28-year-old military veteran who had served all over the world, including an anti-terrorism and anti-piracy stint in the Persian Gulf, said he was fortunate to get into the civilian workforce at a time when it can be difficult for so many young veterans. But the transition from the military back into civilian life wasn’t seamless.

“It’s an entirely different set of standards and protocol and an entirely different structure as well,” said Foster, who grew up in Derby and returned to Kansas University in 2008 just before his maintenance division at Starbucks was eliminated and outsourced.

Now he’s among thousands of young military veterans across the country who have returned to college on the Post-9/11 GI Bill as a way to earn a degree and hone their skills amid a rough job market. With the national unemployment rate at 9.1 percent in August, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics earlier this year estimated the jobless rate among all veterans who served since 9/11, including in Iraq and Afghanistan, was a couple points higher.

Those who work with veterans to find employment say it’s a likely a result of the current job market and the difficult transition that veterans can face.

“With the market the way it is, employers can be a lot more selective,” said Matt King, a veterans employment representative with the Lawrence Workforce Center.

Employers’ incentives

King said the workforce center aims to help match veterans who have certain skills with jobs they are best qualified for. King said the center has also helped veterans gain extra job training for skills in certain areas and tries to educate businesses about tax credits or other training programs they can benefit from if they hire veterans.

The federal and state government offer preference to veterans when hiring, and federal contractors and even other private businesses often have plans where they reach out to veterans when hiring, said Shirley Martin-Smith, owner of the local Adecco staffing franchise and Martin-Smith Personnel Services in Lawrence. Martin-Smith said several ex-military members work for her.

“You can go to the bank on them. They’re just great team players,” she said.

Fred Shockey, commander of the Lawrence Veterans of Foreign Wars post, said he believed it has helped that President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama have advocated for employers to hire veterans.

“It’s a national approach, and it’s a national issue,” said Shockey, who served in the Army from 1992 to 2004. “People look at that and maybe they’ll think, ‘I’ll give this veteran a second look.’ It’s always a positive.”

But he said it can be difficult in the current economy with employers looking to hire workers with previous experience in specific fields, something that military veterans likely won’t have because they’ve been serving in combat or some other setting.

King said one of the biggest obstacles for veterans seeking jobs is often translating skills they learned in the military and helping employers understand how those skills would help them in a civilian job.

“They have a lot of team leadership skills, and they’re disciplined,” King said.

The workforce center also aims to link up veterans to with training programs across the state, whether it’s for a commercial driver’s license or for maintenance on a wind turbine.

“We’ve got to get them the skills, and that’s what it all boils down to,” he said.

Transition to civilian life

Dozens of members of the Collegiate Veterans Association at KU find themselves in the same boat. Many have sought out a college degree after serving overseas, including in Iraq and Afghanistan, to earn an undergraduate degree and, they hope, give themselves a leg up years down the road.

“It’s not for everybody, but it’s helped out a lot of people,” said Kyle Brown, the group’s president in his final semester as a history major after serving as an Air Force reservist in Afghanistan in 2008.

Mike Denning, a retired Marine colonel who earlier this year became director of KU’s Office of Professional Military Graduate Education, said when he retired as a senior officer he took advantage of a transition program that helped him network and prepare for his transition into civilian life. He was able to work in a consulting job on the East Coast before coming to KU.

Denning said in today’s difficult job market, though, one of the best bets young veterans have is to use the GI Bill benefits to earn an undergraduate degree.

“That’s the best thing they can do to prepare themselves for a bleak job market right now,” Denning said.

Dustin Stumblingbear, 32, who retired as a specialist after serving two tours in Iraq with the Army National Guard, is working on his education degree at KU in hopes he can work as a social studies teacher.

“I’m trying to do what I can now to make myself a better candidate for hiring later on,” said Stumblingbear, who suffered a mild traumatic brain injury in Iraq.

Even as he returned to class on a college campus, the environment was different. He struggled with the crowds on campus every day.

“Realizing I’m going to be fine,” he said, “that was an event in and of itself.”

Brown, the group’s president who plans to return to the Air Force after earning his degree, said veterans often need to work with doctors on service-related issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, before they can fully adjust to entering the work force or heading back to school. But that makes things tough in a down economy because some veterans might badly need jobs.

“You’ve got to take care of that first,” he said.

Sara Sneath, 25, a KU triple major and retired Marine corporal who served as a consulate guard all over the world, said she has gained some confidence knowing she took a nontraditional route to college. She said some of her friends who went straight to a university out of high school are still having trouble finding jobs because of the economy.

Sneath said she could find herself in the same boat once she graduates, but she’s comfortable knowing that she can adjust.

“The good thing about being in the military is that you’ve established that you’re capable of doing that,” said Sneath, who also acknowledged she saved her money while she served.

Foster, the Navy veteran who plans to graduate from KU in December with a political science degree, has been working as an intern in the Kansas Adjutant General’s Office helping communities respond to natural disasters. Foster said group members and area veterans do look out for one another and try to alert one another about job opportunities. He believes employers do see the benefit in hiring veterans.

“We’re going to be committed to complete the job,” Foster said. “Employers really, really appreciate that.”

Comments

Getaroom 3 years, 2 months ago

An all volunteer military, great patriotic fan fare for 2 big unfunded wars and where are we now? Where is the all that patriotism now? Did GWB consider these fundamental elements of making war prior to committing the most valuable of resources any nation has to offer? Even if he did consider that, he ignored it.

It would appear that it is not within humanities abilities to learn from the past, so history must repeat the same mistakes again and again. It is not just that Americans have an addiction to spending beyond their means, but also that leadership is and has been morally and ethically bankrupt and corrupt. The job market was not all that well off prior to these wars, but for certain is worse now. Bring back manufacturing to the USA, bring back the jobs and stop the corporate greed that is now running this country and unfortunately creating it's policies. No longer is it one man, one vote. There is no pure "free market" as envisioned by the conservatives of this country. That all illusion and lies. This experimental Democracy is in a shambles and needs repair badly. No jobs is a symptom of disrepair and not only are newer veterans paying for it, but all of us - young and old.

annaparadis 3 years, 2 months ago

On a bright note, as someone who is both a veteran and a KU employee, my work place is more than supportive of my goal to complete two MS degrees while working full-time. Also being in a student services position, I am better able to advocate for fellow veterans and advise them when they run into problems. I agree that the transition from military to civilian life was not perfect, but for me KU has been incredibly supportive and I feel there are so many resources at the university, students just have to seek them out. Veteran's are a proud group, and I think employers, instructors, and support-staff recognize that and feel pride themselves (both in their country and those young people who will soon be running it).

2GenLtown 3 years, 2 months ago

Good job guys! Way to serve your country and now get our education. With your military training and KU education you should be ahead of most of the job seekers out there.

Trobs 3 years, 2 months ago

I wish that were true of everywhere I"ve been applying Mike. Far too often I've been hearing I am overqualified for jobs and they are afraid I will leave to something else. Apparently they haven't been paying attention to the economy to know I have nothing else to leave to.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 2 months ago

17-20 million need full time jobs in America. They are not here because corporate America would rather employ those who are paid $2.00 to make a pair of shoes that sell for $85-$200.

Remember when communism was being demonized and how many other violent dictators are constantly demonized yet corp america hires those governments to replace USA blue and white collar employment with USA tax codes for support. Isn't there something wrong with this picture?

This produces 1. obscene CEO salaries 2. golden parachutes 3. healthy shareholder dividends 4. steady flow of corrupt campaign contributions 5. wonderful retirement packages for upper level white collar executives YET 6. screws over vets 7. screws over grad students and vo-tech students 8. screws over all of Americans that which made corp America what it is 9. screws millions out of retirement plans and medical insurance coverage 10. screws the USA economy for years and years and years and years and years and years and years and years and years and...

Flap Doodle 3 years, 2 months ago

Wow! It's been days since we saw that chunk of text copy/pasted onto this award-winning website.

Crazy_Larry 3 years, 2 months ago

17-20 million need full time jobs in America. They are not here because corporate America would rather employ those who are paid $2.00 to make a pair of shoes that sell for $85-$200.

Remember when communism was being demonized and how many other violent dictators are constantly demonized yet corp america hires those governments to replace USA blue and white collar employment with USA tax codes for support. Isn't there something wrong with this picture?

This produces 1. obscene CEO salaries 2. golden parachutes 3. healthy shareholder dividends 4. steady flow of corrupt campaign contributions 5. wonderful retirement packages for upper level white collar executives YET 6. screws over vets 7. screws over grad students and vo-tech students 8. screws over all of Americans that which made corp America what it is 9. screws millions out of retirement plans and medical insurance coverage 10. screws the USA economy for years and years and years and years and years and years and years and years and years and...

Crazy_Larry 3 years, 2 months ago

Everybody's going to the party have a real good time. Dancing in the desert blowing up the sunshine.

Why don't presidents fight the war? Why do they always send the poor?

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