Growing national concerns about job prospects for returning military members were shared by job seekers in Central Indiana on Wednesday.
Job News Indy held a job fair at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Among the job seekers were several retired service members, who expressed concern for the roughly 60,000 U.S. troops who will be coming home from Afghanistan in the next couple years.
“These guys fight for our freedom today,” said Rico Starms, who retired from the U.S. Army in the 1990’s. “So I feel that these guys should get an extra bonus coming back into the civilian world when it comes to the workforce.”
The federal sequestration, or across-the-board budget cuts, will go in effect on March 1. It will cut $1.2 trillion from defense and non-defense spending over the next 10 years. It is also expected to affect programs that help veterans find their way back into the workforce.
Even without budget cuts, the transition from military life to civilian life can be very challenging. Douglas Coello, who spent more than 20 years in the U.S. Army, knows that well. After recently retiring from the military, he’s still looking for the right fit in the right job.
“I’ve been looking since before I retired,” Coello said. “I was hoping to be ahead by the time I retired and have a job. But no one’s really hiring.”
First Lady Michelle Obama has been pushing U.S. governors to pass legislation or make executive orders that would make it easier for veterans to qualify for work.
The White House has also stated the goal of ending homelessness among veterans within the next two years.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 840,000 veterans were out of work last month.
“You definitely want a degree,” said Starms. “You know, a piece of paper kind of goes a long way.”
In addition to programs like the GI Bill, many colleges and universities offer their own financial aid options for veterans.
At Ivy Tech, skills picked up during military service can also give veterans a jump start on their classes.
“There’s a possibility they can earn credits just from what they’ve done in the service,” said Ivy Tech admissions officer Alice Overton.
However, many soon-to-be veterans will also be looking for jobs to hold down while they’re earning their degree, and that could be the next fight they face after coming home.