) -- While some interns complain about waking early and working long hours, the interns at

The New York Stock Exchange


have no complaints. That's because they are military veterans. The unemployment rate for returning veterans had been higher than the rest of the U.S. population, but the last jobs report shows a reverse in that trend and it's programs like the one at the Exchange that is helping.

NYSE CEO Duncan Niederauer pushed his HR staff to do more for the returning soldiers and they came up with an internship program. The NYSE began its program last year with 15 vets and placed six with jobs at the exchange or other financial institutions. The other nine either returned to the military or went back to school. This year the class has doubled.

"Typically a veteran intern is older, with the average age ranging from 24 and we have some 50 year olds," said Ed Hunter, senior vice president in Human Resources. "The program is broken into two components. The first is educational, where for the first 2 weeks; the interns receive pure classroom training." Basically, the interns get a boot camp introduction to the various financial instruments traded at the exchange. Then for the next eight weeks the veteran associates rotate around different departments.

Many of the veterans expressed difficulty in making the transition from the military to civilian work life. They had the skills, but it was a challenge to figure out how those skills could be applied to a regular job. The program has helped them make this adjustment and figure out how to match that knowledge to a job. One veteran that was hired by the Exchange, Damien Rivera said, "This program gave me confidence and showed me that my skills are worth having in this institution. That I have skills that people straight out of college don't have."

Intern Mario Bonafacio said it was difficult convincing potential employers that his military skills were useful. "It's been a stretch, but being here at the exchange has helped that out quite a bit." Noelle Cherubim thought it would be very easy to find a job when she finished serving the country, but that wasn't the case. She founded a non-profit organization, Les Artistes de Cherubim, as she looked for work to keep herself busy and give back to the community. She found the program after going directly to the NYSE's Web site and was thrilled when she was accepted.

Several soldiers said their leadership skills, especially, helped them in the real world jobs. "I would say leadership is one of the best skills that I learned in the military," said Rivera. "Especially in the business environment, you have to make quick decisions. You have to make tactical decisions when it comes to trading money. Just like in the military, people depend on you at all times."

"Problem solving," said Bonafacio. "You look around and there's something different and brand new happening every second. The ability to adapt is probably the best thing I'm able to apply from the military."

Employers that hire veterans also receive a tax credit through the Work Opportunity Tax Credit. Depending on the length of the veteran's unemployment before being hired, the number of hours worked and the wages during the first year of employment, an employer can receive up to $9,600 per worker. This tax credit was extended through the end of 2013 although The White House wants to make these credits permanent.

Several of the former soldiers cited 9/11 as the reason they joined the military, even more poignant since the events took place just blocks away from the Exchange. Cherubim, an immigrant, teared up when recalling that 9/11. "That was the day when I knew I was an American."

--Written by Debra Borchardt in New York.

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