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EDITORIAL: Veterans need help landing the right jobs

Salem News - 11/14/2017

Nov. 14--In addition to being the world's most powerful fighting force, the U.S. military is an incredible training ground. Many of the nearly 1.3 million active duty sailors, airmen, soldiers and marines are highly skilled in any number of fields, with classroom and practical experience. A large portion have in-depth training in leadership and management, as well.

Yet too often service members don't readily find opportunities to apply their knowledge once they've left the military. They wind up in jobs that demand of them something short of their abilities.

When that happens, the travesty is not just for those veterans but for all American taxpayers who've supported their education.

Unemployment among veterans who are able and willing to work has fallen to marginal rates -- just 2.7 percent last month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which was less than the rate for the overall workforce. But the number of vets doing jobs that don't match their skills and potential is far greater.

In a report this week, the public radio program Marketplace noted a study that found a third of employed vets are in positions that are either part-time when they'd rather work full time, or are beneath their experience and abilities. The research was done by Zip Recruiter and the Call of Duty Endowment, a group that strives to land veterans in good paying jobs.

"Underemployment appears to disproportionately affect veterans, impeding their economic success after military service," Phillip Carter, a former U.S. Army officer who co-wrote the study, told Marketplace. "However, current government statistics barely notice the underemployment phenomenon, and do not begin to constructively address it through improved training, job search and network programs, among other approaches."

Indeed, as Carter suggests, underemployment is a problem for far more people than veterans. As the U.S. unemployment rate hovers around 41/2 percent, it doubles when it includes workers who've been jobless for so long they've stopped looking for work or those who involuntarily work part-time.

But employment challenges -- both landing a job and finding a good one -- are acute for veterans. Even as companies such as Starbucks and Amazon launch initiatives to hire more vets, and government hiring managers give preference to applicants who've served in the military, many still struggle.

Eric Eversole, president of an initiative of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce called Hiring Our Heroes, tells the Military Times that one reason many veterans don't find fulfilling work is because they haven't been trained to promote themselves in the job market.

"A lot of these young service members, they don't know what they don't know about corporate America," he told the publication.

Another sign of the struggle is a surge in calls for assistance to programs that connect veterans to jobs, even as unemployment among veterans has fallen.

In addition to job coaching, veterans who are out of work or underemployed can be served through basic, one-to-one networking. Programs such as one put on Friday by the Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce are invaluable opportunities.

Held at Battle Grounds Coffee in Haverhill -- a business owned by a former Navy SEAL and his wife -- the chamber's networking breakfast for veterans kicked off a larger initiative meant to cultivate job opportunities and contacts that can put veterans to work. Chamber President Joe Bevilacqua said a dozen veterans groups have signaled interest in being involved, and all area employers are invited to list openings, regardless of chamber membership.

It's a commendable effort and hopefully will succeed in helping our region's veterans find a venue to apply the skills, training and experience they've worked so hard to acquire.

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(c)2017 The Salem News (Beverly, Mass.)

Visit The Salem News (Beverly, Mass.) at www.salemnews.com

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