After serving as a tanker for four years, Edner Seme spent a year looking for a job.
Eventually, he turned to the Texas Veterans Commission for help finding work.
For the last year, he has found stable work as a forklift operator at the H-E-B warehouse in Temple.
“It wasn’t hard because the people here are good at hooking you up with information, but you have to do the legwork,” Seme said.
Seme, however, was not alone as an unemployed veteran.
Between January 2013 and January 2014, the unemployment rate among all veterans dropped from 7.6 percent to 5.6 percent, a difference of 245,000 people, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Infantryman, combat engineer, military police and human resources specialist were in the top 10 unemployed military occupational specialty list compiled by Soldier for Life, an Army program.
Infantryman may be the most prominent on that list, because it is among the largest occupational specialty in the Army, said Linda Christ, the Army Career and Alumni Program transition services manager.
And while infantrymen would transition well into law enforcement and security jobs, those positions are not in high demand.
“So there is a little mismatch,” Christ said.
Other specialities on the list, such as military police, don’t translate well into civilian occupations.
“Military police don’t do what police officers do,” Christ said.
The military specialty shouldn’t matter, and it shouldn’t stop a veteran from getting hired in the civilian workforce, said Jerry Butts, a local veterans employment representative for the Texas Veterans Commission.
“It is not so much that the (speciality) is (unemployable), it is the transferable skills that veterans don’t look at that they use every day,” Butts said. “They have transferable skills that can equate to employment.”
The Texas Veterans Commission and the Army Career and Alumni Program are just two institutions that focus on teaching soldiers and veterans how to market those transferable skills.
“Soldiers have other skills,” Christ said. “It’s the attention to detail, the punctuality, the ability to lead a team.”
Veterans need to showcase those skills when they apply for jobs, Butts said.
For instance, many who have been in the Army at an infantry level have managed people at some point, said Gene Hall, Texas Veterans Commission regional Veterans Employment Services manager. “Does the field really matter, when you are looking to manage people?”
Veterans are business assets
On a similar mission, Soldier for Life teaches employers and communities about the benefits of hiring veterans.
“Our civilian employers really need to take a hard look outside of those very specific skills (they are requesting),” said Col. Allan Lanceta, director of the U.S. Central Region for Soldier for Life.
Soldiers have a variety of hard and soft skills that most civilians aren’t equipped with because of training, Lanceta said. Everyone in the Army uses computers, some as often as general information technology specialists.
“Our soldiers are the most adaptable human beings in the country,” Lanceta said. “We teach these guys to accomplish a mission and figure out problems. They can adjust on a dime to accomplish anything.”
Hall recalled what he considers to be a success story for a company. Five former soldiers were hired to fill positions at a pipe manufacturer in Cameron, he said. After only a couple of months, one veteran became a manager and two others instituted a program that helped save the manufacturer money.
“There is no (military occupational speciality) that equates to working in a pipe manufacturer plant,” Hall said.
Veterans can help a company and businesses are starting to see that, Lanceta said.
“Employers have started to recognize that veterans bring value to their organization,” Christ said.
Moving is an issue
About 50 percent of those who come to the Texas Veterans Commission office in Killeen are willing to relocate for a job, Hall said.
But some are not even willing to commute 15 miles.
The Texas Veterans Commission has resources all over the state for those who don’t mind relocating.
“There are a whole lot more jobs showing up a few miles away,” he said.
The Army Career and Alumni Program also works with between 2,500 and 4,000 employers a year to help veterans find work.