More than 1,300 veterans attended a special hiring fair on the USS Intrepid Wednesday as part of a weeklong nationwide effort to get veterans back into the workforce.
The unemployment rate reached 12.1 percent last year among veterans who have served in active duty at any point since September 2001, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The figure is 3 percentage points higher than unemployment in the civilian population nationwide.
Edward Arroyo, 50, who spent 23 years in the U.S. Coast Guard, attended the Hiring Our Heroes fair Wednesday where dozens of companies from banks to pharmacies were represented. He trained as an electronic equipment specialist but said he’s been unemployed for three years.
“Now I’m here and I see there’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” Arroyo said.
Heather Christensen, 26, left active duty in the Navy in 2010, after a nine-month tour in Iraq, and has found the job hunt to be a challenge.
“It’s horrible,” said Christensen. “Everyone's like, ‘Oh you have great experience, but you're young and you don't have a degree to back it up.’ Well, that's very frustrating.”
Army veteran Asher Fink, chief operation officer of junk removal company Junkluggers, attended the fair to recruit veterans because hiring them makes sound business sense.
“We don't feel like hiring them is the nice thing to do, we feel like it's really a good business decision,” he said. “The military makes great leaders, and leaders make great managers in the business world.”