Veterans turn to programs like NSCC’s Lynn employment initiative for help

U.S. Navy active members Jordan Young, left, and Francisco Miranda speak to a representative from Starbucks during a Veteran's Career Fair at NSCC. (Spenser R. Hasak)

LYNN — There were no civilian jobs for machine gunners when Brian Davenport left the Marine Corps in 2017, so he took a job working on power lines.

“It’s a lot of stress on your body: That’s what led me to college,” Davenport said.

The former Norwood resident now living in New Hampshire is exploring community college degrees, including ones offered at North Shore Community College’s (NSCC) Lynn campus. He gathered information on teaching and human resources courses last month during a Lynn campus job fair focused on veterans.

“I’m not worried,” he said about his job prospects, “but you need a degree.”

The national veterans unemployment for May was 2.7 percent compared to 3.4 percent in May 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The rate is slightly higher for veterans like Davenport and Andre Petion who served in the military since Sept. 11, 2001. But the rate is lower than the 4.2 percent national unemployment rate for one year ago.

Petion has been trying for a year to land a job in data science and analytics. He was encouraged by the range of employers with information booths at NSCC’s Lynn job fair, including Comcast, Salem 5, Northeast Arc, Eastern Bank, Bridgewell and Weston & Sampson, but he left the fair without tangible prospects.

“Every job fair I go to, they have labor jobs. I went to one at Gillette Stadium. It was huge, but there was nothing at all for me,” Petion said.

An Army veteran who served in Iraq in 2010-2011 and Dubai in 2015-2016, Petion has earned three college degrees but, without a job, he is partly supporting himself with a veterans disability. He hasn’t grown discouraged over his job search — yet.

“Something will pop up,” he said.

Massachusetts Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs Francisco Urena said the drop in veterans unemployment doesn’t tell the whole story about veterans and the labor force.

Urena served in the Marine Corps and one of his objectives is to completely erase the need to convince Massachusetts employers to hire veterans who have gaps in their work histories representing the years they were serving their country. Punctuality, teamwork and leadership are well-honed skills possessed by veterans, said Urena.

“Many more employers are recognizing the value of veterans,” he said.

Urena credited MassHire North Shore Workforce Board with offices in Lynn and Salem for helping veterans get jobs. The board partnered with NSCC in 2011 to launch job fairs focused on veterans with on-the-spot interviews and long-term employment opportunities.

“For us to serve those who served us is a terrific honor,” said MassHire North Shore Executive Director Mark Whitmore.

The college and workforce partnership is important, said NSCC President Patricia Gentile, because it brings together veterans who are students; veterans looking for work, and employers. Davenport is confident earning a degree is the correct path to landing a career job.

“I’m not worried,” he said.

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