The military these days is all volunteer. The men and women in uniform sign on the line for different reasons. Some have a need to serve this country that can’t be met any other way. Others know they will gain a rock-solid foundation in their chosen military job. They all know there are educational opportunities while on active duty and a G.I. Bill to help them with furthering their education when they separate from the service.

There is a concerted effort in Sacramento to give veterans a leg up in the job market. According to the veterans service desk at the Employment Development Department in Sacramento, businesses are happy to have a pool of vets to interview.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics keeps ongoing statistics of veterans in the workforce. The State EDD does the same. A 12-month average, through December 2012, reveals that the California unemployment rate for veterans 20 and over was 8.8 percent. Among non-veterans, the rate was 9.8 percent. Younger veterans tended to have a slightly higher rate of unemployment than the non-vets and veterans 35 and older seemed to do better than their non-vet peers.

The Employment Development Department in California has a robust program of assisting veterans who are looking for work. Considering the number of veterans throughout the state is over 95,000, it’s a program that is very much needed.

Employers typically look for new hires who will be able to not only simply do the work, but who come with a good work ethic. Responsibility is a trait that ranks high on the list of what they want. The ability to take charge, to not only understand the mission but to offer more than one way to accomplish it, brings a smile to the face of the boss. Honesty, integrity, the ability to work in a team and a good bank of basic skills and education are always in demand.

Military veterans show up with these skills deeply embedded in their approach to a job. The skills that have been learned while serving are many. From law enforcement to medical and I.T. specialists, and everything in between, veterans have skills that transfer well into the civilian sector.

Throw into the mix the ability to teach these skills to others, a necessary factor in the military, and the value of a stint in the military goes up even higher. The potential employer gets quite a bargain with a veteran. Except for company-specific training, veterans come with a finely honed skill set, often gained under rather adverse conditions.

Choosing a new career path can be daunting. Some of the biggest growth right now is in technology, in all its flavors, followed by a need for teachers and medical professionals. The service industry, especially as it pertains to the baby boomers, is a big growth field. Engineering of all sorts and transportation specialists are in the growth category as well. The military has all of these, and returning veterans should be able to apply their skills in these areas. UC Davis Medical Center/University, VA Northern Health Care System, VSP, DST Output and Cal Fire are all veteran friendly when it comes to new hires.

It is a competitive job market right now, and employers are, after all, looking for the most qualified candidates to interview. Veterans are often at the top of the list.

Charles Ferris is a freelance writer who has lived in the Sierra, halfway between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe, for the last 37 years. He retired from teaching after 36 years in 2010. He and his wife hike, kayak, cross country ski, snow shoe, ride mountain bikes and road bikes, year round. His work can be found at


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