Local Business

Veteran coaches veterans for Workforce Network

WOODSTOCK – A Vietnam veteran and retired business owner wants to prepare local military veterans for civilian jobs.

Dennis Nix, 67, of Lakewood, recently started working with the McHenry County Workforce Network Volunteer Team.

He will be coaching job seekers with résumé critiques and mock interview sessions tailored to veterans from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Tuesdays at the McHenry County Workforce Center, 500 Russel Court, Woodstock. Those interested in scheduling a one-on-one appointment with Nix can email him at mcwndtn@gmail.com.

“This is the first time we’ve had someone targeting veterans,” said Linda Kasprzak, business services representative at the McHenry County Workforce Network. “We’re hoping it gets a strong response.”

Nix served in the Army for 10 years, earning the rank of first lieutenant.

“Vets coming back today are not able to procure the positions that they should be able to,” he said. “I know what it’s like to come back from combat and try to get a job – but it’s a different experience today because of the economy.”

The unemployment rate for veterans who served after 9/11 stood at 7.3 percent in May, significantly lower than the 12.7 percent unemployment rate from May 2012, according to figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Prospects were worse for veterans age 18 to 24. The unemployment rate for this group was 20 percent in 2012 compared to an unemployment rate of 16.4 percent for nonveterans in the same age group. In 2011, the unemployment rate for veterans age 18 to 24 was 30.2 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In Illinois, the jobless rate for all veterans 20 and older was 6.8 percent in 2012, down from 8.1 percent in 2011. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that these data come from a small sample and are subject to large sampling error. McHenry County statistics weren’t available.

Nix said he wants to help today’s veterans because of his experience.

“When I came back from Vietnam I got no help at all,” he said. “Nobody would even talk to me. So, it was a completely different situation. The kids coming back today are rightfully considered heroes because they are volunteers. In my day, we were considered baby killers. I want to step forward and see what I can do to help.”

After leaving the Army, Nix spent seven years with Prudential before setting up his own insurance brokerage in the northwest suburbs.

Nix plans to show veterans, of all ages, how to capitalize on their skills.

“I was, all of my military and civilian career, a salesman,” he said. “I want to teach veterans to sell themselves. We do it with the résumé, the cover letter, and making a good first impression.”

Because he has a background in the military, Nix said he thinks it will make it easier to connect with veterans seeking jobs.

“There is a very high unemployment rate for veterans,” he said. “We’ve got to change that.”

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