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Veterans job fair in Tampa draws hundreds

7:10 PM, Feb 23, 2012   |    comments
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Attendees browse 60 potential employers booths all looking to hire those with military training.

Tampa, Fla. -- You might think leadership, and problem-solving skills would make our military veterans some of the most sought-after workers in the nation.

Instead, young people returning from duty have one of the highest unemployment rates out there.

Following two tours of duty, one in Afghanistan, another in Kosovo, CuRay Walker is looking for a job. Despite his training and skill-set, it's been rough going.

Veterans in Walkers age group face an unemployment rate more than twice the national average.

"It's very difficult," said Walker. "I actually started looking for jobs back in July - trying to find something and nothing has panned out so far."

At a Veterans Job Fair in Tampa today, there was some discussion about one potential reason for the disparity, which many don't like to acknowledge - or talk about.

A survey by the Society of Human Resources found 46 percent of employers worry that post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental issues would be a problem in the workplace. The actual number of occurrences, however, is only about 13 percent.

Given the high unemployment rate, Walker, and many like him, were grateful for today's veterans jobs fair in Tampa.

There were 60 potential employers on hand, all in one place. All, looking to hire people whose military training, they believe, translates well into the workplace.

George Snyder, a regional executive with Capital One says military veterans are among their best hires.

"Specifically great communication skills, great problem-solving skills. And hey, not to mention, leadership skills," says Snyder.

But the same experience which employers like Snyder see as an asset, others quietly consider a liability.

For a while, Cody Hammond, looking for a job at the employment fair, even went so far as to remove his military experience from his resume. He has since put it back at the top.

"Basically the first employer I told I was in the military, I lost that job. They couldn't tell me that was the reason they didn't give me the job, but it was," says Hammond.

For people serving, and who have served, it's a slap in the face.

Alex Ham, also still looking for work, says young veterans should not be pre-judged.

"A lot of younger soldiers have gone and seen a lot of bad things," says Ham. "They still need to be given a chance."

U.S. Representative Gus Bilirakis, (R) Palm Harbor, whose office helped organize today's job fair, says employers should look to veterans first.

It's a segment of the population, says Congressman Bilirakis, that's already sacrificed so much, asking for so little in return.

"They say, 'Gus, the only thing we're asking for when we get back is a job. We want an opportunity to support our families. And they deserve that and much much more.'"

On Friday, Feb. 24, there is another job fair scheduled in the Bay Area at Bay Pines Medical Center between noon and 4 p.m.

It will focus on veterans with disabilities.

Last year, a similar event drew more than 400 applicants.

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