Valley Works: Battlefield to the unemployment line

FRESNO, California

The signs are everywhere, hire heroes, vets apply, and businesses appear to be bullish when it comes to hiring veterans. That's what we found at a recent job fair.

Mary Lira said, "Our goal is to offer veterans a position with our company."

Former Marine Scott Ford said, "In the military you have that sense of purpose you wake up every day and put on a uniform. You come home and you wait in line for an interview."

Scott Ford, 26, signed up for the Marines as soon as he graduated high school in 2004. As an infantrymen he was headed to Iraq. Ford suffered an injury and served the rest of his time back in the states. When he got out in 2007 he tried to find work.

Ford said, "I applied everywhere never got my foot in the door, luckily my parents help me out, my dad is a business owner and let me work in his office."

Recent numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that younger veterans who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan have a higher unemployment rate than other vets. In 2011 it was at 30 percent.

Linda Holt said, "I think one of the biggest challenges is people just don't understand."

Holt a human resources specialist with the veteran's administration says many employers don't have a real understanding of the skills veterans have. Holt works to help veterans transform their military resume into a civilian one

Holt said, "If you have never served in the military, the military uses a lot of acronyms, that people don't understand to get that into your resume and in the employers hands they have to understand exactly what skills you have to offer."

Another huge concern, the public's misconception that all vets coming home from war have mental issues.

"Some people may come back with issues but those issues could be fixed," Holt said. "It doesn't mean you're not employable, and it doesn't mean you couldn't do a good job."

The frustration of not being able to find work is sending many veterans back to the classroom especially now that so many jobs require a college education.

"I had this misconception that my experience would outweigh my lack of education," Ford said. "I still believe that but you have to have the education to get to the interview to prove your experience."

Veterans who enroll in college also qualify for the VA's work study program. They not only earn an income but gain valuable experience working at the VA Central California. For instance Scott who is a marketing major works in the public affairs office, he says the job gives him a sense of purpose.

Ford said, "And that's vital, vital, and so coming here and working you get that responsibility you get that camaraderie that you miss in the Marines."

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