NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The overall unemployment rate has been dipping in recent months, but veterans back from the battlefield continue to have a tough time finding work.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation hosted its second annual “Hiring Our Heroes-New York” job fair at the 69th Regiment Armory, at 68 Lexington Ave. in Kips Bay, on Wednesday.
As CBS 2’s Vanessa Murdock reported, Agatha Funes spent 10 years in the U.S. Army reserve, and toured in Iraq and Afghanistan. But since being discharged, she has had a hard time looking for work.
“I’ve tried to seek employment, and because of military MOS, it does not transfer over to civilian, so this opportunity just for veterans to open the door is great,” she said.
Funes was hoping the “Hiring Our Heroes” job fair would lead to gainful employment. More than 100 companies were present to recruit veterans and their spouses.
“They bring in mission-driven attitudes,” said Verizon military recruiting officer Evan Guzman. “They have the skills sets we seek,”
Stephanie Fortunate of Canarsie, Brooklyn, spent 10 years in the Army reserves – including two tours in Iraq.
“I know these prospective employers are looking for us, so it makes it a little easier for us,” Fortunate said.
Martin Quevas joined the National Guard to pay off for college, but it is no longer paying off.
“The recent budget cuts with the sequester have removed my tuition assistance to go to college,” the National Guard Army medic said.
He came to the job fair to find a job and supplement its income.
“It’s nice that these guys were able to put this together for us,” he said.
This is the second year of “Hiring Our Heroes.” There were veterans present who had success last year, and returned representing companies that hired them.
Owen Finnigan made the transition a year ago from a Marine in combat to an operations analyst at a bank.
“Capital One is nothing like Afghanistan,” Finnigan told WCBS 880’s Monica Miller.
He said moving into civilian life was a challenge.
“I had to find a new job in a pretty down economy,” Finnigan added.
To his fellow veterans looking for work, he advises them to keep their chins up.
“There are people actively trying to help,” he said. “They have no financial interest and they really just want to help and there are companies that will benefit from the skills that you have.”
Bryan Goettel from the Chamber of Commerce said the organization just launched resumeengine.org to help members of the military create a transitional resume.
“You click on whatever branch you served in and then you enter your military occupational specialty and immediately it comes back with language to describe that specialty in civilian terms.” Goettel told Miller. “Enter your awards, your deployments, all those things. And it immediately populates with language that we’ve tested and reviewed with HR recruiters.”
Goettel said he hopes the new resume builder will help young veterans who have never held a job outside of the military.
Recruiters at the job fair said they hope to find a few good men and women to bring aboard at their companies
“They come out of the military with a team-oriented mindset, they understand the need for training and excellence,” Kevin Sheridan with Bosch Tools North America told Miller.
The job market remains tough. Nationwide, unemployment is currently 7.7 percent, but veterans who served after Sept. 11m 2001, have a 10 percent unemployment rate. The rate is down a bit from last year, but for young veterans – age 24 and under – unemployment is a staggering 30 percent.
And according to newly-released Department of Labor statistics, veterans under 35 who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan have an unemployment rate around 11 percent, Miller reported.
“There’s a big need, but there’s a big opportunity,” said Kevin Schmiegel, executive director of “Hiring Our Heroes” and a 20-year Marine Corps veteran. “I want America to view this as an opportunity.”
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