Like many recent college grads, Adam Fitzsimmons spends his nights searching for a job on Monster.com and CareerBuilder. The big difference is the Springfield native, a 2010 graduate of Ohio State University, spends his days near the Iranian border of western Afghanistan and could have to fend off a potentially lethal attack at a moment's notice.
Fitzsimmons- a 2nd Lt. and infantry platoon leader in the Ohio Army National Guard whose deployment is slated to end in September- is also in need of a job to come home to- and he's not alone.
"I know in our company, there's a lot of people looking for employment when we get back," the 26-year-old said during an interview from Camp Stone, near the city of Herat. "The funny thing is, being overseas, the thing they're worrying about the most is what happens when we get home."
While the youngest veterans- those ages 18 to 24- have a higher unemployment rate, things aren't much rosier for vets his age. The April unemployment rate for veterans of current conflicts between the ages of 25 to 34 stood at 11.5 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Comparatively, the April unemployment rate for nonveterans the same age was 7.8 percent- slightly lower than the nation's overall unemployment rate of 8.1 percent.
As a platoon leader, Fitsimmons admittedly can't afford to have his mind on anything but the mission- transporting NATO personnel to construction sites six days a week and providing them with security.
"During the day," he said, "I have an extremely dangerous and important job... With the weather being nicer, it's the fighting season, as the Taliban puts it."
But, at the same time, the 2004 Catholic Central grad, who majored in communication at OSU, has sent out more than 50 resumes during the nearly seven months he's been at war. He hasn't heard much in response.
"I haven't heard of anybody getting a job while they're still over here," he confessed.
Unemployment among all veterans has become such a high-profile issue that the departments of Veterans Affairs and Labor on May 15 launched a new initiative to retrain 99,000 unemployed vets ages 35 to 60. The first-come, first-served joint program will pay for a year's worth of training for a high-demand job at a community college or technical school. After completion, the Labor Department will help the veteran find a job.
"The best thing we can do is to ensure the resources are there," said U.S. Rep. Steve Austria, R-Beavercreek. "Sometimes, the skills they learn as a warfighter are not the same skills that are needed back home."
Austria will host a benefits workshop for all veterans in his district at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. June 4 at Fairborn's American Legion Post 526. The workshop will identify the benefits vets are entitled to, including the new veteran retraining assistance program.
In the case of the already college-educated Fitzsimmons- whose major at Ohio State prepared him for a job in public relations or marketing- the timing of his deployment was conducive to job hunting. He got notice of the deployment while still in school.
"Since January 2011." he said, "I've only been home for a month and a half."
Now it seems his status as a deployed combat soldier isn't helping, either.
"I certainly don't think employers are looking to fill a spot five months from now," he said.
Springfield News Sun, Andrew McGinn, May 24, 2012