History
Minnesota National Guard
For veterans, finding a job is new mission

Theresa Reese is an Army officer with two business degrees. She had a full-time Army job for three years in various human resources roles and is now a lieutenant. Despite a lot of hard work trying to find a job in the civilian world, she's had no luck for nearly a year -- not even an interview.

"I honestly didn't think it would be that hard," said the 28-year-old from Minneapolis.

Reese has served in the Minnesota Army National Guard for 11 years, but landing a new job has proved elusive since her full-time Army gig ended.

She's still clocking a weekend a month and two weeks a year of service, but her real challenge is finding a full-time job to support her and her two children.

Many veterans find themselves in Reese's situation. As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down, returning soldiers face the struggle of finding a job in a sluggish labor market. As soldiers, they face even more daunting odds than their civilian peers looking for work.

Today, there are 366,790 veterans in Minnesota. Many are without a job.

NEW OBSTACLE COURSE

For post-9/11-era vets in Minnesota, the annual unemployment rate was 11.7 percent in 2011, just about double the state average (this is the latest state-specific data available). More recent national data show that these veterans faced an unemployment rate of 10 percent in October, well above the national rate of 7.9 percent for that same month.

Just before 2,700 Minnesota National Guard Red Bulls were deployed to Kuwait in May 2011, the state surveyed them and found 18 percent were jobless at the time they left.

"That is well above average," said Rachel Vilsack, a project coordinator with the state's labor market information office.

The obstacles veterans face in finding work are many. Typically, if they've been in the military for a while, they lack a solid nonmilitary network. They have trouble translating their war zone skills and their ranks and military titles to corporate-speak. Employers, likewise, often have trouble understanding their accomplishments.

"If I was not in the Guard, I think it would be easier," Reese said. "Employers hire people, train them, and they invest a lot in putting you into a position. Then they run the risk of a National Guard soldier being deployed. They say, 'Maybe I won't mess with this and get into a sticky situation, and I don't want to waste time hiring a Guardsman.' "

FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE

Publicly, employers say they want to hire veterans and support returning troops. Yet when recruiters look at military resumes chock full of acronyms and military terminology, they're dumbfounded. Jose Chavarria, 44, who lives in Fridley, retired after 24 years with the Marine Corps, working lastas an aviation maintenance chief in California. When he tried to find a job outside the military, a friend who works in human resources looked at his resume. She told Chavarria, a master gunnery sergeant (the highest enlisted rank): " 'It sounds impressive. I have no idea what it means.'

"If there was no one there to explain my resume to her, she said she'd put it at the bottom of the pile," he said.

When officials from the Society for Human Resource Management polled 359 employers this year, about half of them said one of the biggest difficulties in hiring veterans is translating military skills to civilian job experience.

Some employers are trying to address that.

Ecolab's Tess Ketelsen says it's difficult for recruiters to understand soldiers' language, and vice versa. To that end, Ecolab lists job qualifications in its job postings using general terms and comparable military language. For instance, a job posting for a production supervisor requires one to two years of operations experience in a manufacturing plant or a completed military tour as a junior officer or supervisor.

Sales rep job postings ask for a minimum of two years of work or military experience. A logistics job requires a bachelor's degree in business operations, supply-chain or management logistics, transportation or engineering, or any bachelor's degree and a completed tour of duty with a logistics role. "Our goal is to capture people and then evaluate, not to disqualify people," said Ketelsen, director of talent acquisition for the St. Paul-based cleaning and water-treatment company.

In order to increase its exposure to veteran job candidates, Ecolab has forged partnerships with recruiters that specialize in recruiting those with military experience and has partnered with military groups. Company reps regularly attend veterans job fairs across the country. This year, 6 percent of Ecolab's new hires have been veterans, up from 5 percent in 2011.

'THE PERFECT TIME'

Erick Ajax, one of the owners of a metal forming company in Fridley, has plenty of experience hiring vets. Of the 10 hires this year at the 50-employee company, E.J. Ajax & Sons, most were veterans.

One of his most recent hires was Vincent Montez, 45, of South St. Paul, who had spent a good part of his career in the military. For Montez, the hunt for a civilian job "was rough," he said.

"A lot of the jobs I was applying for, they ask you for degrees. Even though I put down military schools, I thought in the back of my mind, they want degrees, which I don't have, but I have tons of experience. Sometimes, employers don't recognize what you bring to the job."

Among his many jobs, he built water-purification systems while deployed in Iraq in 2008 and 2009. When he came back, he held a series of temporary full-time jobs with the Army.

Ajax noticed Montez's potential when he chatted with him at a veterans job fair in September.

"He told me he liked to hire veterans because of their work ethic," Montez said of his new boss. Ajax invited Montez to interview and was impressed with his high score on an occupational assessment and his strong mechanical ability, honed as a Black Hawk helicopter mechanic.

Montez was hired just over a month ago. Ajax is covering Montez's college tuition in a four-year apprenticeship program in precision metal forming that may lead to a journeyman's card and higher pay.

"Right now is the absolutely perfect time to hire veterans," Ajax said, "because there are a lot of veterans coming back with 10, 15 and 20 years of experience who have had multiple rank promotions throughout their career."

EDUCATION CONNECTION

Ajax has formed partnerships and helped design precision metal training curriculum at Hennepin Technical and Anoka Technical colleges, and finds job candidates at the job fairs after the graduations.

Chavarria was one of them. Chavarria had enrolled in a precision sheet metal class at Anoka Tech after finding it difficult to sell himself and his military accomplishments to employers.

When he retired from the Marines and came to Minnesota, finding a job was next to impossible.

"For me, the hardest thing was selling myself," he said. "I find that is a common issue with all veterans and me personally."

In the military, "my reputation preceded me, but here, no one knows me."

In a world where networking is critical to landing a job, many soldiers are a step behind.

"They have a great network in the military, but they have zero network in the civilian world," said Alan Hill, an employment specialist who works specifically with veterans from his base at state workforce centers in Bloomington and Shakopee.
Pioneer Press
http://www.twincities.com/business/ci_21967723/

Fort Mill Times
http://www.fortmilltimes.com/2012/11/11/2321162/veterans-have-new-mission-finding.html

San Francisco Chronicle
http://www.sfgate.com/news/science/article/Veterans-have-new-mission-Finding-jobs-4027870.php



Articles archive

In The News archive

Media Advisory archive

Latest News

148th Fighter Wing Excels at Combat Hammer

Posted: 2015-05-21  03:44 PM
Combat Hammer HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah - Approximately 180 Airmen and Block 50 F-16's from the 148th Fighter Wing, Duluth, Minn. participated in an exercise known as Combat Hammer while at Hill AFB, Utah in early May 2015. Combat Hammer is a Weapons System Evaluation Program (WSEP) that evaluates weapon systems in their entirety.

While the exercise was about a week long for most 148FW Airmen, it was quite a bit longer for those Airmen actually building the bombs and missiles. "Typically, we are one of the first assets to show up at a deployment," said 2nd Lt. Mylii Pukema, 148FW Munitions Officer. "We show up about a week before most everyone else, so we can build up the weapons and have them ready when the jets arrive."

"It's a common misconception that weapons come already built," said Pukema. "Different weapons have different levels of configuration that have to happen. It can be a lot of detail that goes into configuring a weapon or it can be relatively simple, it just depends on the mission."

148FW Munition's Airmen were evaluated from the time the weapon came out of the box. How they practiced safety and followed tech data during the building of the weapon were key components to the evaluation process.



Red Bulls Welcome New Command Sergeant Major

Posted: 2015-05-17  10:38 AM
34ID change of responsibility ROSEMOUNT, Minn. - Soldiers and family members of the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division gathered at the division headquarters Sunday, May 17, 2015 to witness the change of responsibility of the Division command sergeant major.

"We are here to say thank you and farewell to Command Sgt. Maj. Joel Arnold and welcome Command Sgt. Maj. John Lepowsky as the new command sergeant major of the 34th Infantry Division," said Brig. Gen. Benjamin Corell, assistant division commander of maneuver.

According to General Baron Friedrich von Steuben, inspector general of the Continental Army in 1779, "The choice of non-commissioned officers is an object of greatest importance: The order and discipline of a regiment depends so much on their behavior, that too much care cannot be taken in preferring none to that trust but those who by their merit and good conduct are entitled to it."



Department of Defense Recognizes Metro Region Minnesota Employers

Posted: 2015-05-14  01:10 PM
ESGR Banquet ST. PAUL, Minn. - - Minnesota Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) State Chair Nick Ostapenko recognized Metro area employers as outstanding employers of Minnesota National Guard and Reserve members, at the Minnesota ESGR Region 7 annual employer support awards banquet, May 11, at the Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport Hilton Hotel in Bloomington, Minn.

"Our Nation has relied heavily on Guard and Reserve Service members since entering continuous operations more than a decade ago. Employer support enhances retention rates in the Armed Forces and in the end, strengthens our national security," said Ostapenko. "Recognizing supportive employers is vital to ESGR's mission. Our ESGR members actively promote awards as a key element in furthering employer support, while strengthening relationships between Service members and employers. We are here today to award and honor the sacrifices made by so many employers year after year."



Camp Ripley hosts Ripley Rendezvous

Posted: 2015-05-13  10:59 AM
Minnesota National Guard CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - Twelve Councils of the Boy Scouts of America, Central Region, will participate in one of the largest scout camporees May 15-17 at Camp Ripley.

According to the Boy Scouts of America, this is an official area-wide rendezvous including scouts from Minnesota, North Dakota, eastern South Dakota, western Wisconsin, Iowa and parts of Canada.

"All Boy Scouts and Venture Crews, from the area, are invited to this once-every-four-year event at Camp Ripley," said a spokesman for the Central Region Councils.



Article archive
 
top