The job market is tough for most Americans right now. Troops returning from overseas are struggling as well, with the unemployment rate for young veterans higher than the national average.
The unemployment rate for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan sits at 20.9 percent and continues to climb even as overall unemployment has started to fall. Local lawmakers are undertaking efforts to change that.
Army Sergeant Charles Tshibangu figured his toughest fight would be on the frontlines. "A lot of people told me it's easy, … you'll get a job easily," he said. After six years of service, including a tour of duty in Iraq, that's what he's finding.
"Sometimes I get leads and then it's ‘you're not qualified’ for the jobs and it's just heartbreaking," he said. Tshibangu said he would prefer to stay in Montgomery County where his friends and family are, but is applying for positions all over the world. His dream is to work for the Secret Service.
He says it's been so tough finding good work that many of his fellow soldiers went back to the battlefield, opting for active duty over unemployment.
Now Tshibangu is hoping to find work closer to home through a new initiative that you could say resembles an on-line dating site except for troops looking for work.
Maryland legislators launched a website Tuesday that collects two million federal jobs, matching transitioning veterans with handpicked federal positions.
For returning sailors like Akiem Watley this new site brings a sense of hope. He had such a hard time finding work after leaving the Navy that he went back to school. “I'm a lot more optimistic about finding a job more related to the electronics and engineering field since I've always been interested in that,” he said.
Tshibangu, too, is hopeful. “People keep telling me that there are jobs out there, so I have faith that I'll find a job,” he said.
While this site is the first of it's kind, federal officials said they plan to make this tool available in every state.