‘‘They are making a decision of the heart. They are not going to where the jobs are. They are not going to the industries that are hiring,’’ Schmiegel said.
His organization has developed a computer website with Google and various federal agencies designed to point veterans to the 100 fastest-growing cities and the five or six industries within those communities that are doing the most hiring. The aim is to push veterans to use their educational benefits to get training in a high-demand field and then relocate.
Curtis Coy, an undersecretary at the Veterans Affairs Department, said expanded educational benefits are playing an important role in lowering the unemployment rate as hundreds of thousands of veterans attend college through a program that covers tuition and fees, housing, books and relocation expenses. Participation in the Post 9/11 GI Bill program has jumped from about 366,000 in 2010 to 646,000 in the latest year. Some of those enrolled are spouses or children of a veteran. The program allows veterans to transfer their benefits to immediate family members if they have six years of service and commit to another four.
Coy said he’s confident the employment trend is moving in the right direction. He says younger veterans often need a little time to figure out what they’re going to do when they get out of the service. ‘‘I'm a 24-year veteran so I'm acutely aware of standing there at the steps going, ‘So what do I do now?'’’
Sgt. Jesus Sanchez, 33, who will be leaving the Army National Guard this year after 10 years of service, attended the Oklahoma City job fair to get a head start in his job hunt. He specializes in managing the flow of medical supplies and is looking to do the same in the civilian world, but said he found many jobs appealing, including working at Wal-Mart.
‘‘A job’s a job,’’ he said.
Talley reported from Oklahoma City.
Hiring Our Heroes program: http://www.hiringourheroes.org
VetJobs board: http://www.vetjobs.com