A job fair catering only to U.S. military veterans drew an estimated 1,000 men and women to the deck of the U.S. Intrepid last week.
The job fair is one of 100 that will be held in cities around the country by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Department of Labor. The fairs come at a time when unemployment among veterans far exceeds the national average.
"Companies want to hire veterans, but don't always know how to find them," said Kevin Schmiegel, vice-president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The events are supposed to facilitate the introductions, but there is a requirement for participating employers -- they must be hiring and have real jobs available.
Former Army Staff Sgt. Arturo Gomez of Staten Island said he has been looking for a job since his return from Iraq last August. "I'm in the medical administration field and it's kind of hard," he said. He said he wants to try to use the skills he obtained from his seven years in the military.
The rate of unemployment for returning veterans is markedly higher than the national unemployment rate, especially among those ages 18-24. "Generally these are enlisted people who don't have college degrees yet," said Schmiegel.
"When I was on active duty I didn't have time to go to school because I was always in the war zone," said Valerie Chatelain of Brooklyn, who returned from Iraq last August. The former Army supply specialist told NBC New York she plans to go to work toward a degree once she can find a job.
"We're revising the way we transition people from military to civilian life," said Raymond Jefferson, assistant Secretary of Labor, visiting the Manhattan fair. "We want to give these men and women a better chance."