Student vets struggle with workforce

Helen Yip, Contributor

According to an article in The Washington Post, just a year ago the national rate for unemployment of U.S. veterans was 6.9 percent.  According to the data, this was only slightly lower than the national average.

UTEP’s Military Student Success Center approximates that 2,000 military-affliated students are enrolled for the fall 2014 semester and have gone through the MSSC to claim
military benefits.

Samantha Ungos, certifying official at MSSC, and a graduate student in social work, works with veterans to process their benefits. Ungos was in the army for six years and said a big reason student veterans return to get an education is to better their chances for a career.

“Depending on what their job was in the military, like infantry, that doesn’t really translate to civilian jobs,” Ungos said.  “They might have some training, but it doesn’t make them necessarily marketable.”

According to Ungos, UTEP provide credit for certain training the student may have received while enlisted.

“If they were nurse assistants in the military, those trainings will count to credit,” Ungos said.

Ungos said there might be a stigma attached to veterans, which is why some may struggle in finding a job.

“I have some people in my program who have shared that people would look at them differently once they found out that they served in the war,” Ungos said.  “You would think military experience would give you an advantage, but employers are looking for experience, so a lot of them come back to school.”

Jairemy Edwards, junior psychology major, did three overseas tours as part of the U.S. Army and experienced first-hand some of
those adjustments.

“The first thing is practicing tolerance and compassion,” Edwards said.  “You can’t expect people to think and plan the way you do and just be
a sponge.”

Edwards is currently just focusing on being a full-time student. However, he is confident that he will have no problem getting a job.

“Some companies, like JP Morgan, get tax breaks for hiring veterans, so I feel like if I want to go get a job right now I could,” Edwards said.

Rudy Duran Jr., sophomore nursing major, was born and raised in El Paso and joined the Navy four years ago.  Duran came back to school after 14 years and he found it difficult to get a job interview.

“Out there, it’s hard, no one would call me back after I would apply,” Duran said.  

Duran said he was applying at entry-level places like Starbucks, Banana Republic and Target and found trouble getting considered.

Duran also said he hurt his feet while he was aboard a ship that required four surgeries. He received an honorable discharge due to disability.

“I think my background did have something to do with it because I am a disabled veteran,” Duran said.

Although it was hard for Duran to find a job in civilian life, he was hired quickly at UTEP. Currently, Duran works at MSSC.

“I think military experience will help me to get a job in the future. I want to work in a military hospital,” Duran said.  “It’s just entry-level positions that don’t seem to care about military experience.”

Helen Yip may be reached at [email protected]