FORT MEADE, Md. (AP) — Marine veteran Bernard Jenifer was one of hundreds of vets at Fort George G. Meade last month for a job fair. He trained in engineering, but has been unemployed for months.
He has qualifications for many jobs, but security clearances aren’t “like getting a library card.” Several potential employers have said they would call him, but haven’t.
“I hear that a lot sometimes and I don’t like it,” Jenifer said.
By next year, 80,000 more veterans like Jenifer will be looking in the United States for work as the military comes home from Afghanistan and the armed forces shrink.
Anne Arundel County is projected to have among the highest number of returning veterans, said Kirk Murray, president of the Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corp.
“So, it’s very important that businesses understand that and look at hiring these vets,” Murray said. “Anne Arundel County has a skills gap and is trying to find qualified workers, and a lot of those vets have those skills.”
His agency hosted a conference Nov. 21 in Linthicum to teach businesses how to hire vets. It was co-hosted by the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation and Allagash Group, a management firm.
Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, himself a veteran, told the conference that veterans will embrace a business mission and strive to meet expectations.
“They’ve got a work ethic second to none,” said Brown, who served in Iraq with the Maryland National Guard.
Many veterans lack relevant work experience and are unable to fulfill licensing requirements for some types of jobs. Brown said the recently passed Veterans Full Employment Act seeks to find jobs for all veterans by 2015, partly by overcoming those licensing obstacles.
“We’re going to acknowledge the military training, education and training skills that these military men and women bring back to our communities,” said Brown, a Democratic candidate for governor.
“The same to our colleges and universities, translate that military skills, training and education to credit on the college campus.”
The 5.3 percent unemployment rate for veterans in Maryland is lower than the national average of 7 percent, but Brown called it intolerable.
Stan Seidel of Easter Seals, a nonprofit providing information Nov. 21 about hiring veterans, said there are a lot of misunderstandings about veterans, particularly disabled veterans.
When an employer hears the word veteran, a lot of things may come to mind. Posttraumatic stress disorder. Disability. Maybe even homelessness.
“Ninety-five percent of Vietnam vets became very successful and nobody talks about our success,” Seidel said. “They only talk about PTSD, Agent Orange, homeless.”
The trouble with veterans is most don’t brag and they don’t know how to market their skills, Seidel said.
“Disability does not mean inability.”
Steve Goldberg said veterans have to get “reoriented” when they come back, something not recognized as a problem when he returned from Vietnam in 1969. Service men and women are “losing their careers” and have trouble translating their skills to the civilian world.
Goldberg’s voice and data communications company was one of about 60 businesses that pledged at the Nov. 21 conference to hire at least one veteran by next year.
“I know they have the ability to learn,” he said.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)