Veteran unemployment rate high

Springfield veterans center teaching job skills to decrease jobless rate.

The unemployment rate for Ohio veterans from the War on Terror is more than double the overall state jobless rate and a local group wants to narrow that gap.

The current overall unemployment rate for Ohio is about 5.7 percent. But for post-Sept. 11 veterans, it is 11.8 percent, according to Len Proper, executive director of Military Veterans Resource Center.

So the center’s Springfield branch, 1920 Kenton St., held a free workshop Thursday to teach veterans skills to help them get a job or go back to school.

“We try to identify the barriers for the veterans, overcome the barriers, get them involved in working, in schools,” resource center coach Brad Oiler said.

Veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan often face obstacles while searching for jobs, Proper said, like using too much military jargon, physical and mental health issues or a lack of transportation or appropriate clothing for interviews.

Clark County has more than 13,600 veterans, nearly 10 percent of its population. Less than 7 percent of Americans have served in the military.

At the career workshop Thursday, Oiler helped two veterans write resumes and conduct practice interviews.

Those are skills veterans often struggle with, Proper said.

“Many vets don’t know how to explain how their skills can benefit a civilian employer,” he said. “Their resumes are written in ‘militarese’ and when they interview, they see the interviewer as an authority figure – an officer – so they tighten up and come across as rigid and unfriendly.”

Jake Jones, of Champaign County, was one of the veterans who attended the workshop.

He enlisted in the Army in 2001 and was deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. He left the military in 2004 and tried art school, then bounced around from job to job, then joined the Ohio National Guard.

Now after more than a dozen years of military service, he said, re-adjusting to civilian life has been a struggle.

“It’s a complete rewire of the way you think because I had jobs before I enlisted, but me now compared to me back then is a completely different (person),” he said.

The center works closely with StaffMarket and businesses like Walmart, Family Dollar and Maine’s Towing in Springfield.

Jay Miller, a branch manager with StaffMarket, a hiring agency, attended the career day. He had about 60 job openings available Thursday ranging from $12 an hour up to $60,000 a year.

“The companies that we are trying to find people for ask us to go out and find them veterans. Veterans are dedicated individuals, are used to following instruction and we find those skill sets they have in the military transferable to civilian life,” Miller said.

The resource center can provide a gas card or clothing for an interview. It can also help with haircuts and shaves. If a veteran wanted to gain a specific skill to get a job, the center also can assist with education costs.

“As long as its gearing them toward a job, we can pay for it,” Oiler said.

The Military Veterans Resource Center was started in 2000. The organization is funded by donations. AMVETS and VFW are its two largest donors.

Last year it went through a re-branding.

“We still provide personalized one-on-one services, but we now take a holistic approach to a veterans needs – helping them to identify barriers and then access the community resources to overcome those barriers,” Proper said.

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