Opportunities Emerge For Vets In Tough Job Market

NPR icon by Yuki Noguchi
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Many veterans aren't just looking for a job; they're looking for a career, a calling, and of course, financial stability. Those recently separated from the military have to confront what is still a fairly weak civilian job market.

The unemployment rate for veterans serving after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks is 10 percent, about two percentage points higher than the overall rate. There is hope, however, and some employers are actively seeking to recruit veterans for what their unique skill sets can bring to an organization.

Scott Kane, a 41-year-old vet who spent two decades in the Navy, knows plenty of former colleagues who struggled to find solid careers after leaving the military.

"Some of them did not transition well," he says.

Kane was lucky, and his quest for a job led him to Eastern Virginia Medical School, where he is in a two-year program to become a physician's assistant.

"Every once in a while take a peek at the job listings for physicians assistants all around the country, and they are plentiful," he says.

Daniel Thibodeau teaches at Eastern Virginia, and says he's actively recruiting more veterans into the program. He does this by offering scholarships with money he received through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and by recognizing relevant military experience.

"We have an equivalent rating that we give them as far as some of the course work that they've taken while in the military, and some of the certifications that they've had," Thibodeau says. "So it's less of a burden to where they have to do more prerequisite work that is needed in order to get into the physician's assistant program."

Last year, Congress passed legislation that — among other things — gave employers tax credits for hiring vets. But investment firm Edward Jones seeks out veterans because they have a good track record.

"We have a concerted effort to hire military veterans because we know the skills set very well," says Matt Doran, a general partner at Edward Jones whose job it is to recruit veterans to the firm.

"We already have 1,300 financial advisers at Edward Jones who have a military background," he says. "So we like the skill sets, we know the competencies and we think it translates very well to work as a financial adviser."

Those skills include the ability to plan, organize and put an emphasis on results and service.

In addition to the standard classes and certification, Doran says his firm gives vets an additional two months of apprenticeship-style training modeled after the military's own job-shadowing programs. So far this year, Edward Jones has hired 323 vets as financial advisers — more than in the three years prior.

"With the reduction in forces, we see a large, talented candidate pool that is diverse and mobile; all branches of the service are attractive to us," he says.

That attracted Rob Smith, a 20-year veteran of the Marines who joined Edward Jones this year, after looking for other jobs.

"I spent six months looking for jobs with my background," Smith says, "and it was just really tough to find something that wouldn't move my family all over the place again, that I thought I could really turn into another career."

Smith, who is now a financial adviser, says he doesn't anticipate ever leaving his firm. But, if he did, he now has the certification and skills he can use anywhere else.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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