Young veterans tell of futile job hunt
Joblessness among new military veterans is soaring and Sen. Patty Murray said she plans to propose legislation to help.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Lee Branson, 29, would like to think that his years of military service — three in the Air Force and two in the Washington National Guard — would work in his favor when he applies for a job.
Instead, he believes the opposite is true.
"People have a lot of misconceptions about the military, and those misconceptions make it difficult for us," said Branson, who said prospective employers seem to think his military experience might make him too rigid, too authoritarian and prone to react badly under stress.
Joblessness among new military veterans is soaring. Earlier this month, the U.S. Labor Department reported an unemployment level of 21.1 percent among young veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan — well above the national jobless rate of 16.6 percent for nonveterans in the same age group, 18 to 24.
Branson, of North Seattle, was one of a half-dozen speakers Monday at a round-table discussion in Seattle held by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. Murray said she plans to propose legislation helping veterans' employment efforts.
Branson, who served in Kuwait and Iraq, has a bachelor's degree in criminal justice but has had difficulty even getting an interview for law-enforcement work. He hopes to hear soon about a job he applied for at a 911 dispatch center.
If that falls through, he might consider returning to active military duty — to ensure he has a paycheck. He's also pursing a master's degree online.
Programs to better equip young veterans for work in the private sector, to provide a greater array of education and training and to help sell veterans' message to employers are possible moves Congress could consider, Murray said.
"Veterans come home with some of the best experience ever," Murray said. "They are determined, qualified, they show up for work on time. Often our business folks who are doing the hiring don't know that."
Among Monday's speakers was Dustin Eberle, 27, of Bothell, an enrollee in a program begun last year by the Puget Sound Electrical Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee, which includes union and contractor representatives.
The program, which already has produced 20 graduates, collapses a year's worth of training into 12 weeks of intensive work and instruction, and helps place its enrollees on union hiring lists, to be eligible for work when their training is complete.
Eberle, whose 4-½ years in the Army included two tours in Iraq, said the program is helping teach him "how to use my strengths and recognize what I have to offer."
The Monday session was at the Georgetown offices of VECA Electric and Communications, a company created by World War II veterans in 1946 that now has 53 military veterans among its 400 field employees.
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