Veterans, employers work to combat unemployment By Nathan Phelps Press-Gazette Media A customer needed help.

After a quick and courteous response, Dan Urmanski closed the door on his service van and disappeared into a De Pere home to solve the problem. Urmanski is a U.S. Army and Army Reserve veteran who served as a food service specialist and combat medic in the military. Now, he is a field premise technician with AT&T U-verse, a job he’s held since 2008. “A lot of my work skills had nothing to do with AT&T, but being military is what got me hired,” he said. “They gave me the chance I needed to succeed.” In recent years, state and federal agencies and myriad companies have launched initiatives to get veterans — especially those who have served in the past dozen years — into the workforce. While they have some success stories, like Urmanski, veteran unemployment numbers show there is much work yet to be done. Businesses like AT&T, Humana, Wal-Mart, and motion and control technologies company Parker have put a thrust on hiring veterans and helping them find the point where military skills overlap with civilian job skills. Other area companies, like Schneider National and Oshkosh Truck Corp., have a history of seeking out veterans. And others have joined the effort. Late last year, The Center for Rural Affairs, in conjunction with other agricultural organizations, offered a webinar to veterans in an attempt to help them along the path to farm and ranch ownership. Dan Becker, a Marine veteran of the 1991 Gulf War and a member of Desert Veterans of Wisconsin, said he senses some improvement in employment prospects for veterans, and events like job fairs aimed at veterans do help. But the job market remains rocky. “With my experience with the members in our group, it’s still tough finding jobs,” he said. “There are a lot of initiatives out there and it does help veterans who are returning, but you’re not going to completely escape the job market and the condition it’s in. It’s still pretty tough out there.” In a March report, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said the unemployment rate for veterans who have served since September 2001 was 9.9 percent in 2012. The rate was 12.1 percent in 2011; 11.5 percent in 2010; 10.2 percent in 2009; and 7.3 percent in 2008, according to the bureau. The unemployment rate was 10.9 percent for those who served in Iraq or Afghanistan. AT&T launched an initiative this spring to hire 5,000 veterans over the next five years. Jay Orthmann, an AT&T finance manager in Milwaukee who served in the military police from 1981 to 1985, said veterans bring skills to the table that may not be readily apparent from the job titles they carried in the military.

“What they’ve learned through their training and experience goes deeper that just carrying a rifle and ground pounding,” he said. “When we uncover, and peel back a few of those layers, we see these veterans that are out there ... have a lot of skills beneath that surface of their (military specialty).” Orthmann is president of the Wisconsin AT&T veterans chapter. Urmanski said he’s happy with his job and recently applied for a management position. “I went to school for IT services ... and I could not find a job after graduating from that,” he said. “The only jobs out there were contract jobs for two to three months.” Field premise technician is a high-demand position within AT&T. “I didn’t know anything about this when I started,” said Urmanski, who served on active duty from 1995 to 2000. AT&T “taught me everything I needed to know and provides all the tools I need to make my day successful.” Additional Facts On the Web • Hiring Our Heroes: • AT&T careers for veterans: • National Guard Job Connection Education Program: • Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs: • Wisconsin Office of Veterans Employment Services:

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