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Private sector commits to hire or train 435,000 veterans and military spouses

Companies participating in a program to help veterans find work have hired or trained 290,000 veterans and military spouses since August 2011, nearly tripling the original goal of the program with about eight months to spare, according to the White House.

First lady Michelle Obama said Tuesday that the program called Joining Forces has generated pledges from businesses to hire or train another 435,000 in the next five years.

President Barack Obama on Tuesday said that too many companies still don’t recognize the skills that service members acquire as part of their military service. If they can saves live on the battlefield, they can work in an ambulance or hospital, and if they can oversee a convoy of equipment, they can help oversee a company’s supply chain, he said.

“Too often, just when these men and women are looking forward to the next chapter of their lives, they are stuck in neutral,” the president said.

Overall, the unemployment rate for veterans is actually lower than that for non-veterans. The nation’s youngest veterans are the exception to that longstanding trend, with nearly one out of five under the age of 25 looking for a job. The unemployment rate last year was also in double-digits for those 25-34. Overall, the unemployment rate for those veterans serving since the Sept. 11 attacks stood at 9.9 percent last year, a significant improvement from the previous year.

In Ohio, veteran unemployment last year was 7.6 percent compared to 6.9 percent for the population as a whole, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For the state’s veterans who served since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the unemployment rate was 16.5 percent in 2012.

Companies such as Sears, Walmart, AT&T and Deloitte have pledged to hire more former service members.

In downtown Dayton, Deloitte sponsors an armed forces business resources group to help veterans make the leap into civilian jobs, said Dan Marion, Deloitte Consulting LLP technology director in Dayton. The company has pledged nationwide to double the number of veterans it will hire in the next three years.

“I think the skills and leadership abilities and education and self-discipline that our former military veterans bring certainly has application” outside of the military, said Marion, an Air Force veteran.

Jason Weiser, 38, a Deloitte software consultant, is one of those veterans the company hired in Dayton. But the search for a job for Weiser, a Harvard graduate with an MBA, was anything but easy. He deployed six times to Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Horn of Africa as a maintenance officer in the Air Force Reserve.

Weiser, who lives in Kansas City, Ks., and commutes every week to Dayton, said his frequent deployments became an obstacle to getting employment until he was hired at Deloitte. “That was a huge problem when I came home in ‘08,” he said.

Deloitte accepted his military experience and has eased his transition into the job, he said. “That was a refreshing relief when I came to work for them,” he said.

GE Aviation launched “Get Skills to Work,” a manufacturing training initiative at Cincinnati State University, with a goal to train 200 veterans this year, said Shannon Thompson, a company spokeswoman in Evondale. “This is just a pilot project,” she said. “Nationwide, there’s about eight to 10 other cities who will replicate what we do in Cincinnati.”

At the Dayton VA Medical Center campus, the Volunteers of America prepares homeless veterans to find jobs at Miami Valley employers. So far, employers have hired about 180 veterans in less than two years, said Michael Salois, Volunteers of America director in Ohio.

Former service members face the challenge of explaining what they did in the military into language civilian employers understand, Salois said.

In Ohio, county job centers have designated staff to help veterans prepare resumes for the civilian workforce, or who may face medical disabilities, or homelessness as they search for a job, said Benjamin Johnson, Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services spokesman. “We know that veterans face some barriers to employment that the general population often doesn’t,” he said.

In Ohio, state lawmakers have passed legislation meant to help veterans get professional credentials more easily to earn truck drivers licenses or physicians assistant licensing based on their prior experience in the military, said Michael McKinney, Ohio Department of Veterans Services spokesman.

“There’s outreach going on to employers all the time to hire veterans,” he said.

Associated Press writer Darlene Superville contributed to this report.

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