RALEIGH, N.C. — The U.S. government is determined to make sure military service members who have fought for their country don't return to civilian life only to find they have to fight for a job, U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis said Thursday.
Solis was at the new N.C. National Guard Joint Force Headquarters building off Reedy Creek Road to tout labor department initiatives to help veterans find jobs.
The department released a report last month looking at unemployment among veterans, which is especially high-around 28 percent-among those age 30 and under. Among all veterans, unemployment is about 9 percent, comparable to the national average.
One problem younger vets have when they try to enter the job market, Solis said, is limited job experience. Worse, she said, many don't know how their military experience can be translated into civilian work, and employers generally aren't aware of how those skills can be used, either.
Veterans have a lot to offer, she said, "but we need to do a better job of connecting those dots to employers."
Now all veterans who have served since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks can go on the Labor Department's website and download a "gold card" entitling them to job-hunting assistance. The card can be presented at One-Stop Career Centers run by the department to get up to six months worth of help, including assessments, direct job referrals, training referrals, interview coaching and resume-writing help.
Solis used a drop-down projection screen to show the audience of about 500 Guard members and others another way the Department of Labor is trying to help. The department has launched a website, www.mynextmove.org/vets, where veterans can plug in their military job description and search a database for civilian equivalents and openings in that field in a particular state.
A supply sergeant, for instance, would make a good warehouse manager. An Army medic could work at an ambulance service.
Solis tested the system using an audience member's job description. He worked in human resources, and the website found him three possible jobs in the state.
"Oh, that's all?" the soldier joked, adding that he might have to change jobs.
Solis said the department also is revamping its job-hunting workshops for veterans for the first time in 19 years. The report released by the department last month said the old workshops were of little use in helping vets find jobs.
Crystal Cavalier, this year's Army Spouse of the Year, whose husband is based at Fort Bragg, attended the event and said afterward that a major reason vets have trouble finding or keeping jobs is because of combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder. Many don't even know they have it, she said, until they find they can't function well enough to work.
"It's a huge factor," she said. And with so many soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, "They can't find enough doctors to get treatment."
Solis said that a jobs bill passed by the U.S. Senate on Thursday was designed to help those service members by offering tax credits to employers who hire disabled vets. Smaller tax credits would be available for hiring vets without disabilities.
Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., who voted in favor of the bill and sponsored a similar earlier version, released a statement after the vote that said, "Getting our heroes back to work isn't a Democratic priority or a Republican priority-it is an American priority."
Also on Thursday, first lady Michelle Obama announced a commitment by private-sector companies to hire 100,000 veterans and military spouses. The International Franchise Association has promised to provide 80,000 of those jobs, and the other 20,000 would come from members of the Military Spouse Employment Partnership, which includes 100 companies and groups such as Microsoft, Home Depot and Citi, and franchises such as UPS.