• Google launches new site to guide veterans into civilian work force

    Google is aiming its search-engine horsepower at homecoming veterans, launching Thursday what may be the largest online hub to help men and women exiting the military as American armed forces draw down.

    Called VetNet, the site offers veterans three distinct “tracks” to plot and organize their next life moves – from “basic training” which aids job hunters to “career connections” which links users to corporate mentors and other working veterans to “entrepreneur” which offers a roadmap to starting a business.

    To arm the new site with some heavy-hitting experts, Google partnered with three leading nonprofits in the veteran-employment space: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes program, the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, and Hire Heroes USA.

    “We asked: What else can we be doing with our technology to help these folks transition home?” said Carrie Laureno, founder of the Google Veterans Network, the company’s employee-volunteer community which seeks to make Google a military-friendly work environment.

    “We wanted to really move the needle in the right direction. And working with our three partners, we asked: What can we do together to help you reach more people?” Laureno said. “How do we help these millions of people who are in this situation get the resources they need (to land civilian jobs) in a much easier, more straightforward way that’s ever been possible before?”

    After clicking a button to connect with VetNet, users gain access to a weekly snapshot of “what’s happening” in the veteran-employment arena as well as to a ready group of business advisers and to an ongoing array of virtual “hangouts” that train people on basics from resume writing to making “elevator pitches” or that allow veterans to hear insights from leaders in retail, transportation, retail and entrepreneurship, Laureno said.

    The venture drew a favorable review Thursday from a key congressional member.

    “I am especially pleased to see companies like Google and their partners take the initiative to bring together these various resources to help veterans navigate the employment opportunities together,” said Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

    Click here for more military-related coverage from NBC News.

    “I am confident their combined efforts will be especially helpful to those who may not know where to start their job search. This is the least we can all do for our veterans who have served our nation so honorably,” Miller said in an email.

    Miller’s words hint at the fresh irony of post-war life for thousands of ex-service members: Their initial challenge is not a lack of help; it is the over-abundance of nonprofits seeking to guide veterans from their once-super-structured schedules and tight packs of buddies to the wide-open, ultra-competitive job market.

    According to an April 2012 study by the Center for a New American Security, more than 40,000 nonprofit groups now exist in this country with missions focused on filling the various needs of active-duty troops, veterans and their families.

    That giant-yet-fragmented bundle of organizations — while striving to do well by veterans — must also battle for the same funding dollars. And that jostling hasn’t fostered a cohesive landscape for veterans to navigate as they begin their new career journeys, Laureno said. Given that mish-mash of helping hands, some veterans simply don’t know where to go first. 

    “I’ve heard occasionally people (in the veteran-helping field) use the word ‘competitors.’ They are competing for funds. They are competing for awareness. They are competing to be in the spotlight,” Laureno said. “It’s also a well-documented issue in this community that there are some people, just like anything else, who got involved because wanted to help but that emerged as sort of looking for press.

    “The founding partners here are not of that ilk. These are partners who have stuck with their original mission, who are focused on getting the help out to the people who need it, and who recognize that technology can help them take that help to a completely different level than ever before possible,” she added.

    Google and VetNet are hoping to attract new partners from that sea of 40,000 groups. But they’re still hammering out the best ways to assess prospective collaborators — and their larger intensions — before they are invited to join, Laureno said.

    “That’s one of the biggest challenges all of us are facing in this issue, and that’s why there has been this proliferation of 40,000-plus (veterans organizations),” she said. “We are going to need to have a some sort of vetting process. That is something the partners are working on right now: What will be the criteria they use to judge who comes on board and who doesn’t?

    “Anyone who would like to get involved, who has effective services, and who is willing to make the commitment to providing them on this platform who will be supportive of the community, they’re all welcome,” she added. “But if somebody wants to advertise on a one-off basis about their particular program, this probably isn’t the right place for them.”

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  • Employers step up efforts to recruit, hire veterans

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    Veterans Michael Futch, right, and Logan Remillard register for the "Hiring Our Heroes" job fair in Utah last November. Companies say they are are stepping up efforts to hire veterans.

    Getty Images

    Veterans Michael Futch, right, and Logan Remillard register for the "Hiring Our Heroes" job fair in Utah last November. Companies say they are are stepping up efforts to hire veterans.

    Veterans who are looking for work may have reason to feel more optimistic about their job prospects this Veterans Day: A new survey finds that businesses appear to be making a greater effort to hire them.

    The CareerBuilder survey finds that 29 percent of employers are actively recruiting veterans, up 9 percent from a year ago.

    In all, 65 percent of the 2,600 employers surveyed on behalf of CareerBuilder said they would be more likely to hire a veteran over another, equally qualified candidate.

    The efforts come amid increased attention to the plight of job-seeking veterans. Unemployment has been a particularly big problem for young veterans who are returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to high unemployment and low job prospects.

    The unemployment rate for veterans who have served since Sept. 11 was 10 percent in October. That’s far higher than the comparable unemployment rate of 7.5 percent for the entire population. The figures are not adjusted for seasonal variations.

    Many young veterans are expected to enter the workforce in coming years, as the U.S. withdraws from wars in the Gulf and potentially looks to shrink its overall presence as well. The job market has been slowly improving, and that could help increase their changes of finding a job.

    But experts say the young veterans are facing additional roadblocks as well.

    Many don’t have the skills or experience in crafting a resume and interviewing for a job outside the military. They also may not know how to translate their military skills into civilian language that would make them attractive to employers.

    Some veterans are also finding that the skills they learned have in the military, such as driving a military truck or serving as a military medic, don’t translate directly into civilian life. That means they have to spend time and money getting the same certifications to do their job outside the military.

    Advocates argue that veterans also bring a special set of skills to the workforce, such as loyalty and the ability to perform under pressure. Other perks, such as the good publicity that comes from hiring veterans, probably don’t hurt, either.

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