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Young vets struggling to find jobs despite rebounding economy

LA CROSSE, Wis. - As many Americans continue to struggle to find unemployment, veterans are worse off.

The situation for young vets is even more challenging.

Younger vets who served following the Sept. 11 attacks face unique challenges in today's job market, but young or not, most veterans have one common hurdle to overcome -- writing the resume.

"It's still pretty competitive out there," said Rick Larson, a veteran employment representative at the Wisconsin Job Center of La Crosse County.

Larson said young veterans just can't seem to catch a break.

"A lot of them are in the construction industry because they're young and healthy, and want that physical type labor, and that's been hit hardest by our recession," said Larson.


Right now, the national unemployment rate is hovering around 8 percent.

The latest numbers show for vets ages 18-24 it was more than 20 percent last year.

Larson said from what he's seeing here in our area, things are getting better.

"I think a lot of them are going back to school when they come back, and there's been a push by employers to hire veterans," said Larson.

Larson sees nearly 650 new vets come into the job center every year for help, and one thing is always a common factor.

"They're poor at writing resumes," said Larson. "They're poor at describing what they did in the military and describing in civilian terms so local employers can understand it. If local employers can't understand it then it's going to go into the circular file. That's all there is to it."

But it's not just young vets struggling to find jobs.

Leonard Sbies of La Crosse has had six jobs since being discharged in 1986.

"Basically when you're mortars or artillery, there's nothing in civilian life there that qualifies you," said Sbies.

Sbies is now looking for his seventh job.

While each time gets harder, he said veterans of any age shouldn't give up hope.

"Keep hunting," said Sbies. "I know there's a job out there somewhere out there for me. I've just got to keep on trucking."

Larson said while military job titles may not translate directly to a civilian job, they may provide transferable skills including leadership skills.

He also said another factor for vets struggling to find jobs could be businesses not knowing how to market job openings to vets.

If you are an unemployed vet looking for help, you can contact veteran services at the Wisconsin job center of La Crosse County.

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