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Northwest veterans on the hunt for jobs

Owen McCurty.
Owen McCurty.

In five years, more than a million members of the armed forces are expected to leave the military and return to civilian life.  Many will be looking for jobs in what’s likely to remain a difficult job market.

Owen McCurty knows firsthand what it’s like to look for a job after a military career.

“I think it’s a time of anxiety, uncertainty. You’re coming from a microcosm of society. You’re coming from your own system and you’re walking out the front door with all these skills that you’ve learned in the military, but you’re having to compete with individuals that are on the outside that know how to speak a certain language, their education level might be a little bit different.”

McCurty joined the army at 18 and spent the next 20 years working with ammunition and eventually information technology, but when he got out he was faced with writing a resume and contending with job interviews, something many soldiers have never done before. 

His job now is with WorkSource, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. McCurty helps veterans and transitioning service members with their job search and their unique challenges. Through WorkSource’s coaching, workshops and job referrals at military bases across the state, more than 14,000 veterans found a pathway into the civilian workforce last year.

Even though veterans have some barriers to finding work, there are significant skills that military personnel bring back with them that are appealing to employers.  Jonathan Fleischmann is a Vice Presdient at Frontier Communications which provides voice and Internet services;  they have a call center in Everett.

“Members of the military and past members of the military tend to be highly qualified for the kind of work we do both from a technical standpoint, but as well as from a leadership standpoint. You know what I see is a tremendous amount of teamwork and personal discipline. It’s been a great fit,” Fleischmann says.

Fleischmann says the company made a commitment a year ago to hire 100 veterans and so far they’ve nearly doubled their goal. And other companies are likely to follow suit.  Washington State passed pioneering legislation this year that allows companies like Frontier to have a veterans hiring preference program without violating any federal laws.