LOUISVILLE — In the face of high unemployment, the Kentucky National Guard is trying to help its soldiers find full-time jobs.
The Guard held a job-skills workshop in Louisville this week where soldiers learned skills such as networking and polishing résumés.
The jobless rate this year for soldiers in the Kentucky National Guard has been 14 percent to 20 percent, compared to the state's overall jobless rate of 9.7 percent.
Lt. Col. John Bates told The Courier-Journal that he requested the job-training program after recently asking 600 soldiers under his command whether they had full-time jobs. He said about a quarter of them did not.
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Pfc. Robert Mattingly, who attended the workshop, said he has been able to find only seasonal warehouse work while he awaits deployment next year to Afghanistan.
Employers "know you could be called up any time," said Mattingly, 22, who is based in Louisville. "It's very discouraging."
The issue isn't limited to Kentucky. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 14 percent of current and past members of the Guard or Reserve who have served since 2001 were unemployed in 2010. The national unemployment rate hovers around 9 percent.
For "citizen soldiers," who attempt to hold down jobs, many while being deployed multiple times, the challenges are daunting, Kentucky Guard officials said.
"It's both things — it's the economy and the pace of deployments," said Lt. Col. Kirk Hilbrecht, a Kentucky Guard spokesman. "Finding an employer to knowingly hire you, when you say you might not be around much longer, that's tough."
There are nearly 8,500 people in the Kentucky Army National Guard and the Air National Guard. Many have served three to five deployments, said Phil Miller, a specialist with the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve.
That's a lot of time away from the work force, officials said, especially for younger soldiers who don't have much job experience.
In Kentucky, the Guard and the Kentucky Employer Support of Guard and Reserve have responded with job fairs and training workshops. .
"We've got companies coming to us," said Robert Silverthorn, chairman of the Kentucky Committee Employer Support for Guard and Reserve. "They know they have leadership experience and training that can translate well into the workplace."