Veterans face a new battle: getting hired

Becky Yerak and Cheryl V. Jackson / Chicago Tribune /


Published Nov 7, 2012 at 04:00AM / Updated Nov 19, 2013 at 12:31AM

It's one of the most disheartening statistics in the job market's slow recovery.

As the nation's unemployment rate dipped below 8 percent in September, joblessness for post-Sept. 11 veterans was nearly 10 percent. And younger female soldiers now in civilian life? Nearly 1 in 5 are unemployed, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“There are a lot of companies that say they want veterans, but that conflicts with the unemployment numbers,” said Hakan Jackson, who was a biomedical equipment technician in the Air Force from 2000 to 2012. Jackson, 31, believes it'll be easier to find a job after completing MBA studies at Boston University.

There is some good news for the 1 million veterans expected to leave the armed forces over the next four years: Corporate America is increasingly professing a desire to hire veterans, saying they value certain qualities that former soldiers bring to the workplace.

In October, Boeing Co. and three other industrial companies formed a coalition to train veterans in 10 states for advanced manufacturing positions that often go unfilled because job candidates lack the skills. Last year, JPMorgan Chase & Co. helped found the 100,000 Jobs Mission, which has a goal of hiring that many service members worldwide by 2020.

University of Chicago MBA student Bryson DeTrent, 29, who was in the National Guard for 12 years, thinks there are four key reasons why vets, particularly women, haven't found jobs:

• It's too easy to collect unemployment.

• Many women are planning to start families or make up for time lost.

• Many companies are nervous about hiring National Guard and reservists because the military could pull them from work.

• Younger vets become dependent on the military's structured environment and have difficulty adjusting to the civilian work environment.

Erik Sewell, 28, who is also studying for an MBA from the University of Chicago, said more companies need to follow in Home Depot's footsteps. He said the retailer has an online translator that is part of its job application process. He said he typed in “field artillery officer” and up popped several examples of how that experience could be applied at Home Depot.

“It would be great to see more companies utilize tools like this,” Sewell said.