FORT MYERS, Fla. - Back home, and out of work. Dozens of local veterans in search of jobs found direction Saturday at a Fort Myers employment fair held with them in mind. While the general unemployment rate is high enough, it's even higher for veterans.
"I've been looking for employment for a year now," Ernie Harmes said.
Harmes served in the Armed Forces in Germany in the 50s. When he came home, getting a good job was easy. Now, it's a different story.
"One of the problems I had was when you go on your computer and you do you applications that way, they look at your age and immediately chuck it into the wastebasket because I am 75 years old and they figure I'm too old," Harmes said.
He and over 100 other veterans came to the Joseph P. D'Alessandro Office Complex with resumes in hand, in search of new opportunities. They were also able to attend workshops on resume-writing, Veterans benefits, and credit and budgeting.
"As we know in Southwest Florida, the unemployment is right around 12-12.5% for veterans," Terry Cerullo of the Florida Department of Financial Services said. "It could be as high as 16%, so they are always more difficult at re-adjusting and finding employment."
Finding work is also becoming increasingly harder for female veterans. Their unemployment rate rose to 13.5% in January, compared to 8.4% for non-veteran females. And the unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans was 15.2% in January, up from 12.5% in the same month a year ago
"The beauty about those men and women is they've always been up for the challenge," Jason Teeters said, recruiting for Rasmussen College.
John Kopp, who served in Korea, knows getting the right job will be a challenge, but nothing compared to what he's already faced. "You always have to be flexible and you have to keep training," Kopp said. "The second you stop training and learning new things, you really don't fit into the job market because the job market is always changing."
For those who couldn't make it out or missed Saturday's event, organizers are hoping to put together another Veterans job fair in June.