On The Job Hunt: Putting U.S. Veterans To Work

veterans civilian jobs

By Phil Keating

While millions of Americans lament the persistent rate of unemployment, now at 8.1 percent according to the August 2012 Department of Labor data, the frustration deepens for U.S. veterans.

After serving tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, putting their own lives on the line for their country, the unemployment rate for veterans is 10 percent. While that is down from the 2011 average of 12.1 percent, it remains substantially higher than that of the general population.One of the challenges that veterans find is transitioning their mindset from intense, overseas warrior, to the peacetime tranquility of civilian life and a civilian job.

%VIRTUAL-hiringNow-government%"I was working on the F-16 loading anything from 500-pounders to Sidewinder missiles and long-range, stand-off missiles," Braxton Betts, who 5 years ago was the 'tool man,' working on the jet to make sure everything was compliant, wired and fused to perform, said. Then he returned home to the U.S. and a stark job outlook. Immediately he encountered the 'veteran generalization' by would-be employers.

"It was very frustrating," Braxton said, "especially whenever the majority of the jobs that were presented to you were either law enforcement or security guard where the pay is very, very far below what you're used to."

But five months later, the battle-tested Braxton persevered to a civilian paycheck, with Ryder Corp., managing fleets of truck drivers.

"It took me a while before I actually did get my foot in the door and it mainly was in part to me showing up every day and letting them know that I wasn't going to be going anywhere until I got that job," he said.

"And it's rough, you know; you lose guys every day," Joshua Berlongieri, whose left knee was destroyed by a roadside bomb in September 2007 on the outskirts of Baghdad, said. His Humvee was the second from the front in a convoy of five.

"I got told I would never walk again," he said. "And here I am running every day like it's nothing. I'm not going to let someone stop me if I know I can do it," Berlongieri said. And having survived war across the Atlantic, he's now employed by G4S Secure Solutions, deterring crime for private clients.

More:4 Big Challenges Veterans Face As Job-Hunters -- And How To Overcome Them

G4S has pledged to hire 6,000 veterans by the end of 2013; Ryder has a goal of 1,000 veteran hires. Both companies realize that veterans come home with keen, war-tested skills, like teamwork, adaptability and a drive that is focused towards one ending -- "Mission Accomplished" -- which translate positively for many companies.

"The leadership skills that you find in young veterans, 20, 21, 22-year-olds ... we simply are hard-pressed to find in the civilian world," Orlando Aguilera, of G4S, said.

And at Ryder, Director of Recruiting Ed Tobon, a veteran himself, says veterans also deliver dependability rivaling that of non-veterans.

"Retention is equal, if not slightly better, in certain areas from the veteran workforce," Tobon said. "Performance is on par as well, with a few upticks here and there."

Sen.r Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), is introducing a bill to specifically aid veterans reintegrating into the civilian workforce. If signed into law, it would create a data-rich website for veterans to match their skills with jobs available. He predicts bipartisan support.

And Aguilara emphasizes the sense of patriotism that an employer can feel by putting a veteran to work, after the fighting is done.

"I would tell any employer you're missing a tremendous opportunity," he said, "if you're not offering employment opportunities to veterans."

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