'Hiring our Heroes' highlights challenges for vets looking for work

A representative of the Texas Department of Public Safety gives information to a job seeker at Wednesday’s “Hiring our Heroes” event at Albany Technical College.

A representative of the Texas Department of Public Safety gives information to a job seeker at Wednesday’s “Hiring our Heroes” event at Albany Technical College.

ALBANY, Ga. — After spending years in the service of their country, veterans often find it hard transitioning to a civilian work force. Throw in a sputtering economy, and finding gainful employment can be down-right impossible for many vets.

Area veterans had an exclusive invitation Wednesday to a job fair sponsored by the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, Albany Technical College and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its many partners.

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“Part of our mission, our personal mission, is to help these veterans and military spouses find gainful employment again as well as to put the message out there to the community that there are veterans looking for work,” said Ernie Lombardi, founder of EBL Promotions and a contractor hired to organize the “Hiring our Heroes” job fairs in the Southeast.

According to some who came to Wednesday’s fair, vets have a number of challenges in finding employment. One, as was the case for former U.S. Army soldier Sylvia Rivers, is talking an employer into hiring despite medical issues that demand routine visits to the Veterans Administration Clinic.

"Some veterans like myself have service-connected disabilities," Rivers said. "And even though they say its not a hindrance to their decision to hire you, it is, because I go to pretty regular VA appointments, which means that you're basically not at work because you're at VA appointments."

Some vets also are plagued with the fact that many in the civilian world just don't understand what it was that they did while they were in the military.

"There are some challenges out there for veterans, absolutely, and most of it revolves around transitional skills," Lombardi said. "Like explaining exactly what they did in the military and how that relates to the job in the civilian sector."

While vets have been in the news in recent years as the recipients of renewed attention towards employment, data released by the federal government suggests they are recovering from the recession on a pace that is at least on par with, if not better than, non-veterans.

According to a March 2013 report by the U.S. Department of Labor, the jobless rate for all veterans in the U.S. continued a decline, ending the month at 7 percent.

Comparatively, the unemployment rate for all Americans during the same time period was 7.6 percent.

For 2012, unemployment among male veterans dipped 1.4 percentage points from 2011 to 6.9 percent. The level for female vets stayed stagnant at 8.3 percent.

Gulf-war era II vets — which are described as anyone who entered the service after Sept 11, 2001 — are experiencing a tougher time finding work, according to the numbers.

Among those who served in Iraq, Afghanistan or both, Gulf War Era II vets had an unemployment rate of 10.9 percent in August 2012.

According to the Defense department, vets outnumber non-veterans in four of the seven major industrial sectors including public administration; transportation, warehousing, and utilities; manufacturing; and professional, scientific management, and waste management.

Non-veterans hold the edge in retail; education, healthcare, and social assistance; and arts, entertainment, accommodation, food and recreation.