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Veterans struggle to translate military skills into civilian jobs

Monday - 8/27/2012, 12:59pm  ET

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A job fair at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda brings in military-friendly companies and helps veterans match their military skills with civilian ones. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)
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Kathy Stewart, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - U.S. veterans face high unemployment numbers, especially those from 18 to 25 years old.

But there's another major challenge hindering them in their job search: the cultural gap.

After serving for nearly five years, Eric Williams of Silver Spring left the Navy last month. He has searched for a civilian job, but he says finding one has been tough.

"I found out last month that translating what I did in the military to the civilian world is hard," says Williams.

To bridge that cultural divide between military and civilian employment, the 100,000 Jobs Mission was launched in March 2011.

It was started by a coalition of companies like JP Morgan Chase that are committed to hiring 100,000 vets by 2020. Part of their efforts to support veterans included a large job fair Saturday on the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center campus in Bethesda.

Williams was one of 1,000 candidates attending the fair. He says it is perfect for veterans, since the employers there are military-friendly.

Cedric Oliver came from New York to attend the event. He spent four years in the Marines and has been looking for work after getting out in 2005.

"They try and match our skills to the best of their ability and transfer it into the civilian world," he says of the fair.

Oliver says this kind of event was not available to veterans in prior years.

"It's like Rosetta Stone to the military to the civilian world," he says.

Edward Dunn, senior vice president of Military and Veterans Affairs with JP Morgan Chase, says over 18,000 veterans have been hired through this program as of June 2012.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)