| 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."
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
Bearcats toast mission success
Posted: 2014-10-23 12:31 PM
MAHNOMEN, Minn.- Soldiers, families and friends of the 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 136th Infantry Regiment attended the unit's annual Bearcat Dinner, October 18, 2014.
The dinner, a tradition for the battalion, celebrated the proud lineages of the unit, as well as highlighted the accomplishments they have made over the past year.
"We have devoted a great deal of effort to pay attention to our unit readiness," said Sgt. 1st Class Shane Haugen, admin NCO for the battalion.
114th Transportation Company Welcome Home Ceremony
Posted: 2014-10-22 03:53 PM
CHISHOLM, Minn.- The Minnesota National Guard's Chisholm-based 114th Transportation Company is scheduled to hold their 30-day reintegration event and welcome home ceremony Saturday at Chisholm High School after a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan.
"A priority of the Minnesota National Guard is to improve the wellness and resiliency of service members and their family members," said Army Capt. Ryan R. Koester, 114th Transportation Company Commander.
Minnesota Military Radio talks Veterans Voices, sequestration
Posted: 2014-10-22 09:00 AM
SAINT PAUL, Minn. - The Minnesota Humanities Center honored 30 Minnesota Veterans who have gone above and beyond the call of duty with the 2014 Veterans' Voices awards, September 11, 2014. Two of these veterans - Dennis Schulstad, an Air Force veteran and retired brigadier general, and Capt. Amber Manke, a current member of the Minnesota Army National Guard - recently spoke about their community involvement on Minnesota Military Radio.
The Minnesota Humanity Center's veterans voices program draws on the power of humanities to call attention to the stories and contributions of veterans. It empowers Minnesota veterans to speak in their own voices through plays, art, discussion groups and the veterans voices award.
Also this week on Minnesota Military Radio, Col. (Ret.) Don Kerr warned listeners of the coming effects on the Minnesota National Guard due to congressional gridlock. Kerr, the president of the Vessey Chapter of the Association of the United States Army, reminded listeners that the coming automatic budget cut, known as sequestration, has returned and will mean a loss of about 80,000 Soldiers across the Army nationwide.
1/34th Brigade Special Troop Battalion Reorganizes; The Army of 2020
Posted: 2014-10-18 10:31 AM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn.- The 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division (1/34th ABCT) completed its official reorganization of the 1/34th Brigade Special Troops Battalion (1/34th BSTB) to the 334th Brigade Engineer Battalion (334th BEB), Oct. 18, 2014.
"This unit reorganization lays the groundwork for meeting the Army's 2020 vision in which brigades are self-contained combined arms formations," said Col. Robert Intress, 1/34th ABCT Commander.
133rd Airlift Wing Welcomes home Security Forces Squadron members from deployment
Posted: 2014-10-16 09:34 AM
ST. PAUL, Minn.- Thirteen airmen from the Minnesota National Guard's 133rd Airlift Wing Security Forces Squadron are scheduled to return Friday to Minnesota following a four-month deployment to Southwest Asia.
"During this deployment, the 133rd airmen melded with their active duty counterparts and utilized their citizen-airmen experiences and training to help fight the war on terrorism in an overseas environment," said Col. Terrance Sieben, the security forces squadron commander.
MPD Sgt. Blackwell: 'We're human, we have hearts, we care about people'
Posted: 2014-10-15 08:42 AM
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn.(KMSP)- Talking with Minneapolis police Sgt. Katie Blackwell, it's clear she truly cares about her job and the people who live and work in the first precinct.When a man was sexually assaulting women in Ramp C downtown last week Sgt. Blackwell took it personally, making his arrest a top priority. The suspect was in custody within 48 hours.
"We just won't tolerate predators walking through our city and our communities, so yeah, I took it pretty personally," Sgt. Blackwell said.
To understand why she cares so much, one has to know where she's coming from, and it's quite a story. She grew up one of 10 kids in northeast Minneapolis, something Sgt. Blackwell says helps her connect with her community.