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State Efforts Underway to Help Returning Iraq Veterans Find Jobs

With the official conclusion of the Iraq War, local officials have made much of Pennsylvania's efforts to help returning service members come back into the civilian workforce. The state's Civil Service Commission held a recruiting event specifically for military veterans earlier this month. About 150 people showed up for information and advice.

Veterans face many challenges when returning from combat. One of the first steps to finding civilian employment is to get veterans to cut the shorthand out of their speech.

"Veterans tend to use military jargon a lot — acronyms, and things that, you know, a civilian recruiter may not be that familiar with — so we ask them to break it down, just explain, well, what does such a unit do, or, you know if they're using an acronym, have them spell it out and explain what it means," said Pamela Needham, the director of the Bureau of Employment Services at the Civil Service Commission.

Working for the State

Many veterans might not know how their skills qualify them for civil service positions, so at recruiting events, veterans are often advised to check out an online skills translator.

"A lot of them aren't even aware of it, so we start with that. And then we have a listing of typical military occupational titles and suggested commonwealth titles where there may be some transference of skills," said Needham.

The commission enforces the state's veterans preference law. It ensures that veterans who take civil service exams get 10 extra points for their military experience. Veterans get an additional hiring preference when they're in the running with another job candidate who is otherwise equally qualified.

But Needham acknowledged that a hiring preference for veterans can't solve the problem of unemployment among former military members in the state. The difficulty in finding jobs is compounded by the fact that the commonwealth has been on a hiring freeze officially since 2008.

"That doesn't mean we're not filling jobs, because we're government. We have services that we have to provide. We have a lot of mandated services, too, under law that we have to have staffing for," said Needham.

But it does mean that when there is a vacancy, there is no automatic approval to fill it, so the hiring process could take longer.