By The Bakersfield Californian
Most of the attention that's been paid to military veterans' issues centers on health and disability claims, and rightly so. But other critical socio-economic factors affect thousands of vets, nationally and at home.
One is unemployment, especially among post-9/11 veterans who have served sometime during the last decade in Iraq and Afghanistan, or in support of those conflicts. First lady Michelle Obama apparently recognizes this. Speaking at the Business Roundtable this week, she challenged the chief executive officers of the nation's 200 largest corporations to begin hiring more veterans.
This is a timely cause. Unemployment among veterans sits just a tick below the national rate for all workers. But among post-9/11 veterans, the rate is 11.4 percent, 2 points higher than the national average. That translates to about 200,000 Iraq- and Afghanistan-era veterans without jobs.
Dick Taylor, head of the Kern County Veterans Service Department, says the unemployment rates among local veterans tend to mirror the national averages. The California Economic Development Department says the unemployment rate among all Kern veterans is 9.2 percent. That figure is likely higher for post-9/11 vets.
Some variables may skew these figures. Post-9/11 vets are younger than other veterans, and unemployment rates tend to be higher in that age bracket. Others may not have completed their education, and educated veterans, just as in the general population, have higher employment rates.
A blanket challenge to companies to hire more veterans makes for great talking points, but the solution should also include outreach programs and workshops that show younger vets how to prepare resumes, how to interview and where to obtain job training. Should companies reach out to these veterans? Of course. But these young veterans should also know how to reach out to prospective employers.
Thankfully, some major companies are stepping up. Wal-Mart has pledged to hire more than 100,000 veterans over the next five years. UPS has pledged to hire 25,000 vets in the same period, as well as committing another 25,000 employee volunteer hours to help them with services, including job-seeking.
Taylor says the county Veterans Service Department is starting a "Kern Patriot Partnership," which will include nonbinding agreements with local businesses to increase vet hirings. He reports substantial interest in the local business community.
Which brings us to our point: It's good business sense to hire veterans. But younger veterans have a responsibility to make themselves known to potential employers.