Hiring Our Heroes: A National Initiative

By KBJR News 1

February 28, 2013 Updated Dec 4, 2013 at 8:51 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- Of the nearly 13 million Americans out of work, almost 1 million are veterans.

Numbers show it's been especially difficult for younger veterans who served in the years following the September 11th attacks to find jobs.

But area experts say the workforce is geared more toward vets now, than ever before.

"I'm the real deal, the full package,” Jeremiah Archambault said.

He’s a U.S. Navy Veteran, now living in Willow and looking for a new career.

“I might not have all the training that a person needs to do the job, but what I do have is discipline, the skills that the military has set in me."

After being honorably discharged in 2000, Archaumbault came home and felt years behind.

"I filled out a resume and just started looking for work,” he said. “I felt like a 15-year-old again, trying to get his first job."

He's not alone, and the numbers say it's worse for those who served post 9/11.

There are currently 252,000 vets from that era without a job, nearly a 12 percent unemployment rate.

That's significantly higher than the current national rate of 7.9 percent.

Area experts say struggles can be expected when returning from overseas.

"They've been in the military for however many years, so they haven't been looking for a job, and now all of sudden, they are coming out with a new challenge to look for a job, Ben Vanderscheuren, a Veteran’s Employment Representative with the Minnesota Workforce Center in Duluth said. “Just like a college student, they are looking for a new career."

Most can't do it alone, but Archambault says he's found there is help available.

"I feel like the government is doing everything that it can," he said.

That includes several federal initiatives under the Obama administration.

The Vow to Hire Heroes Act provides tax credits to businesses hiring vets.

The Joining Forces Initiative will help secure a quarter million jobs for veterans and military spouses by 2014.

President Obama's federal budget proposal includes a 40 percent funding increase for the Department of Veteran's Affairs.

"Let us serve them as well as they have served us, by giving them the equipment they need; by providing them with the care and benefits they have earned; and by enlisting our veterans in the great task of building our own nation,” President Obama said, in his 2013 Budget Address.

The biggest struggle for many veterans lies in making themselves marketable.

To help with that Chris Hill, a Director of Recruitment with Duluth's U.S. Bank went to Kuwait in 2012 to conduct employee workshops for returning soldiers.

"We helped them prepare how to interview properly and helped them relate their experiences,” Hill said. “Whether it's being in the military or while they were on deployment, and how they can bring those experiences and be a valuable asset to an organization."

Hill helped brief 2,700 soldiers while overseas, 550 of them came home to no jobs.

Nine months later, that number stood at just 35.

“These veterans when they come back from employment, they want to work, they want that opportunity,” Hill said. “What it really comes down to is organizations working to educate themselves or finding the resources to become educated on what they can do to help employ a veteran."

Experts say efforts like these, are helping.

"In my experience in the years that I've been in the workforce, it hasn't been this veteran friendly,” Tom Casey, a Veteran’s Employment Representative with the Wisconsin Job Center in Superior said. “I would expect now is going to be a peak."

For vets like Archambault, a new job can act as a new beginning.

"I'm kind of excited for the future,” he said. “I'm going to have the opportunity to do something that maybe I could have done, when I was 18, versus going into the military."

The unemployment rate for vets serving in the Gulf War Era One, from 1990 to 2001, is currently 5.7 percent, that's down by .7 percent, from this time last year.

Jennifer Walch
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