Each year, more than 300,000 service members leave the military and seek employment in the civilian world, yet the unemployment rate remains higher for new veterans than it does for the general population. In May, the unemployment rate was 6.8 percent for post-September 11th veterans compared with 5.7 percent for everyone else.
Which begs the question: why?
Part of the problem is that companies often don’t know how skills gained in the military will translate to their business. But there’s one line of business that doesn’t have any doubt about the benefit of military skills: the oil and gas industry, which has boomed in recent years due to oil-shale fracking.
Several programs across the country are assisting veterans in the transition from active duty to employment with oil and gas companies. According to Madasyn Czebiniak of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, when 30-year-old Army veteran John MacZura recently graduated from Penn State with a degree in petroleum engineering, he had a half dozen job offers and now works as a completions engineer for Cabot Oil and Gas.
The G.I. Bill assisted MacZura with his tuition, and he started at a high-level position in the industry. But for those who can’t hack an engineering degree, there are plenty of other jobs for vets. “I had friends who started out as welders and roustabouts, worked their way up, and after they got trained they were placed into every day field jobs,” MacZura tells Czebiniak.
Programs helping veterans learn skills for oil and gas industry jobs include Austin-based Retrain America, which aims to help blue-collar workers and veterans train for high-paying jobs and ShaleNET, which launched in 2010 when the oil and gas industry needed more skilled workers than it could get.
Dave Pistner, who directs energy initiatives at the Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport (a school that offers a training program for veterans seeking to enter the oil and gas industry), says, “The traits that the military imparts on the men and women — loyalty, courage, safety, commitment, leadership, teamwork — are all valued by employers in this industry. It’s a natural fit for our troops leaving active service.”