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Detroit expo connects veterans with jobs, support

Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

Thousands are expected at Detroit’s Cobo Center this week for events meant to help veterans gain a foothold in the job market.

The National Veterans Small Business Conference and Expo, as well as an accompanying job fair and veterans open house, is being touted as a major event to connect veterans with job opportunities.

It comes at a time when there’s increasing awareness of veterans’ struggles returning to a tough job market.

Gov. Snyder dropped in on the events Wednesday. He said he became aware of this particular issue during a visit to Afghanistan late last year.

“After getting a chance to swear people in re-enslisting in service, I learned that about a third of those soldiers didn’t have a job,” Snyder said. “We have to do better than that.”

The events are also drawing major military figures and veterans advocates, including Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki.

Shinseki called the event “an extraordinary opportunity," and says he wants to see “veterans employed and small business contracts rolling before the end of the summer.”

“Aren’t we the folks who won the wars for this nation?” Shinseki asked the crowd at Cobo. “Well, the nation needs us to win this one against a lethargic economy. And you all have a role to play.”

Shinseki says from now on, any Veterans Affairs contract not going to a veteran-owned small business will be subject to special scrutiny.

Michigan’s unemployment rate for veterans is significantly higher than the national average at 11.2%.

For veterans who served in active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces at any time since September 2001, the numbers are even worse. They experienced a 12.7% unemployment rate, up from 12.1% a year earlier. Among these veterans, those who were male and ages 18 to 24 had a 29% jobless rate last year.

Organizers say employers are looking to fill up to 24,000 jobs nationwide through

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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