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Uber seeks to put veterans behind the wheel

The unemployment rate for veterans is three times the national average
Uber program aims to put veterans behind the wheel 03:52

Veterans face many challenges readjusting to civilian life.

One of the toughest is getting a good-paying job.

The ride-sharing service Uber is putting up a nationwide Help Wanted sign.

Although national unemployment numbers for vets have improved lately, the rate for returning service members under the age of 25 is still higher than 20 percent -- three times the national average.

Uber hopes to change that with its new initiative, and it's enlisting top military brass to get the word out, reports CBS News correspondent Anna Werner.

Travis Groft is on the job -- it's his first month as a driver for Uber. The 31-year-old veteran spent seven years in the Air Force and was deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan.

When he got out in September 2008, he said finding the right job was tough.

"You kind of feel like a goldfish in a huge sea, right, you definitely don't know what to do with yourself, so I had some high levels of anxiety, readjusting was taking me a little bit," he recalled.

Uber drivers use their own cars and set their own schedules, which Groft said allows him to work full-time while attending college and helping to care for his daughter.

"I think veterans are well suited for this type of work, because we're service-based anyway, and we're offering a service to someone -- we're helping them get from point A to point B. So it's kind of mission-oriented," Groft pointed out.

Uber now wants to bring on 50,000 more veterans just like Groft by teaming up with Hiring Our Heroes, a non-profit veterans service organization. The idea isn't just to give veterans jobs, but to help Uber hire more quality drivers.

"The veterans who are already on the system provide such a high quality experience, and they just have a better work ethic. And they're out there, doing more trips than the average partner," said Uber CEO Travis Kalanick.

Has he looked at the data on that?

"Oh yeah," Kalanick replied. "We already have thousands of vets on the system today."

He said Uber will take less commission from veterans and help them buy cars at better interest rates.

The company is beefing up its pitch to veterans with an all-star volunteer military advisory board, chaired by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

"The reason companies like Uber want vets is because of the qualities that vets bring to the workplace -- they're disciplined, they're team players, they're easily trainable, they're flexible, they're loyal and they're reliable," Gates observed.

Uber has faced a wave of recent criticism from taxicab associations and unions who claim it operates without facing the same rules and regulations they do.

But Kalanick said hiring veterans isn't a public relations move -- it's about offering opportunities.

Why is this any better for a veteran than being a cab driver?

"Well, look, that's obvious, right? A cab driver, he has to rent a vehicle ... for $40,000 a year," Kalanick explained. "There's an inflexibility in how taxi work sort of operates and the economics of the taxi industry make it so that it's very hard to make a decent living."

"The most important thing from my standpoint is that the veteran have a choice of some jobs to go to rather than being stuck with one option and Uber is for a certain kind of those veterans who wanna be on their own," Gates said.

Gates isn't the only military might behind the new Uber initiative.

Also joining the veterans committee: former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen and the former commander of forces in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

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