An electrician in Iraq, but not in Queens

Kevin Kirwan veteran
Kevin Kirwan has years of experience controlling complicated Navy logistics, but he is struggling to find a job. (Credit: Miles Dixon)

For the second time in two years, Kevin Kirwan, a logistics specialist for the Navy for 14 years in places like North Africa, can’t find a job.

Kirwan, 37, is one of an estimated 210,000 veterans in the city, many struggling to find employment after years of service.

The City Council met Monday to discuss ways to help them get hired.

According to the Council, the unemployment rate for recent veterans rose from 9.1 percent to 11.7 percent from 2012 to 2013. Meanwhile, the general unemployment rate fell from 8.3 percent to 7.9, percent.

“People who go out to fight for us, that protect our country, deserve the best, and we need to continue to give them the tools that are going to make them viable when they return,” Brooklyn Councilwoman Sara Gonzalez said.

Many vets struggle to translate battlefield experience for civilian jobs. And even if they were trained for jobs that exist in civilian life, they return only to find they are qualified to fix plumbing in Iraq, but not Queens.

To apply for a license, many city jobs require experience in the city or U.S. — meaning overseas military experience does not apply.

“If your work as a plumber or an electrician was good enough for the armed forces, it should be good enough for New York City,” Veterans Committee chair Mathieu Eugene said in the Monday hearing.

Metro profiled Kirwan in a 2011 story. After the article, his experience with logistics and administration landed him a job at Chase, but his project ended in January.

After three months of job fairs, visits to veterans’ help centers and countless applications—and with a 13-month-old son – he is worried about paying the bills.

“It’s frustrating,” he told Metro.

Kirwan is also trained as a safety inspector. Despite those skills, he would likely need local experience to get a job. But the Council bill might streamline skipping that step.

“This will definitely help,” he said, adding, “There’s just not get enough jobs until you get yourself in front of the right manager.”


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