| 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 117 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 79 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, EJ 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"
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
Fort Mill Times
San Francisco Chronicle
Camp Ripley drives on with rebuild
Posted: 2016-12-02 01:01 PM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - Following a damaging storm last fall, Camp Ripley and the Minnesota National Guard set plans in motion for the rebuilding of housing and maintenance structures on the installation.
"The replacement strategy for outdated and damaged buildings is integrated into our long-range development plan to ensure Camp Ripley is able to meet future mission requirements," said Deputy Garrison Commander Lt. Col. Chad Sackett.
The location of Camp Ripley was selected in 1929 by Minnesota's Adjutant General, Ellard Walsh, in order to replace the small, outmoded 200-acre training camp in southern Minnesota created in 1888.
Chef Challenge serves up for military and community
Posted: 2016-11-30 02:51 PM
BLOOMINGTON, Minn. - Minnesota National Guard food service specialists competed for "Top Chef" at the Nov. 11 Veterans Day Chef Challenge at the Mall of America.
To celebrate Veterans Day the Mall of America, Star Tribune and Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Network teamed up to host the ultimate Chef Challenge pairing Minnesota National Guard personnel with chefs from restaurants located at the Mall of America.
"It was a unique situation and lots of fun," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Paul Erickson of Camp Ripley, who was entered as one of the competitors for the first round of the competition.
Uncovering the past at Camp Ripley
Posted: 2016-11-16 12:03 PM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. -Archaeologists from Commonwealth Heritage Group out of Milwaukee, Wis., concluded phase I inventory surveys Nov. 4, 2016, at Camp Ripley.
The surveys help to identify lands possibly used as settlements on the Camp Ripley reservation, how they connect to the surrounding areas and if they hold any significant historical value.
"Some of the same lands that Camp Ripley uses for the training of our Service members and inter-agency partners, were once settlements dating back hundreds of years," said Patrick Neumann, Cultural Resources manager at Camp Ripley.
Camp Ripley preserves, protects environmental and cultural resources
Posted: 2016-11-09 12:33 PM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - The environmental team at Camp Ripley continues to be proud of their reputation for conserving the natural and cultural resources of central Minnesota.
Additionally, the team supports unit readiness through research, guidance and implementation of sustainable, environmentally-responsible practices.
"Since the increase in operational tempo, over the past few decades, the need for usable training lands became a significant demand for military and emergency response agencies," said Jay Brezinka, Environmental Supervisor with the Minnesota National Guard. "The role of the Environmental Office has been critical in accommodating the needs of the military mission while mitigating possible impacts on our natural resources."