Jobs For Veterans Ranks High
by: Troops to Trades
September 10, 2015
By Shannon Clinton
Each year, an estimated 130,000 U.S. soldiers transition from active duty service, and of those, more than 3,000 are from Fort Knox, according to Where Opportunity Knox, an organization designed to help match transitioning veterans and their spouses with employers in the 26-county Greater Louisville region.
Exiting soldiers enter into civilian life through the Department of Defense Army Transition Assistance Program (TAP), based at Fort Knox’s U.S. Army Human Resources Command. TAP provides job search assistance and counseling services for soldiers and their family members.
But civilian employment challenges can loom large for these veterans. A 2015 Department of Veterans Affairs Veteran Economic Opportunity Report found that nationwide “in recent years about half of all service members transitioning into civilian life have faced a period of unemployment within 15 months of separation.” While the opportunity report found 95 percent of veterans will find employment before using their allotted 26 weeks of unemployment benefits, the average unemployment used had risen to 22 weeks in 2013 compared to an average 18 weeks in the previous six years.
As an additional resource to pair veterans with jobs, WOK launched in September 2014. Regional veteran connectors provide free, personalized assistance using veterans’ and spouses’ talents and job and relocation preferences to help them find jobs, especially with one of WOK’s more than 100 participating employers in the region.
In addition to serving Fort Knox area veterans, WOK representatives visit Fort Campbell monthly to assist veterans in that part of the state, said WOK Executive Director Beth Avey.
“We especially developed this with the small to medium businesses in mind, which don’t have the resources necessarily of a larger company – but really we have companies of all sizes,” Avey said.
WOK is an initiative of the Kentucky Indiana Exchange, which along with area workforce investment boards performed an initial market study to develop the model for the program. It is funded by The Ogle Foundation Inc., Duke Energy, The Gheens Foundation Inc. and the James Graham Brown Foundation.
‘Passionate about the veteran workforce’
Second-quarter data is still being compiled, but Avey said 1,036 veterans were hired with the help of WOK from the program’s fall 2014 launch through the first quarter of 2015. The goal by the end of 2015 is to achieve a total 2,500 veteran hires in a variety of fields, including information technology, manufacturing, healthcare and law enforcement, among other sectors. A longer-term goal is to connect 10,000 veterans by 2017.
In addition to WOK, a number of other military and community-based organizations are helping put veterans to work in the state. The Kentucky Jobs for Veterans Program has a presence in 10 regions throughout the commonwealth and is open to veterans of all military branches plus the Kentucky National Guard. Through Kentucky Career Centers, this program provides training, skills assessment and job search assistance, with specialized services for disabled veterans.
The Kentucky Society for Human Resource Management is also working with Kentucky Career Centers to help encourage employers to hire veteran workers. Kentucky SHRM Workforce Readiness Director Sherry Powers said for the past eight years her organization’s members have been encouraged to post all open job positions with the career centers and participate in periodic veteran job fairs the KCC sponsors.
“Honesty, perseverance and strong work ethic are the benefits our vets bring to our information systems and support careers,” Powers said. “Diversity, harassment and leadership are just a few of the areas (in which) each has already been trained.”
The society also hosts resume, interviewing and networking workshops that can also help veterans during their job searches.
In mid-May this year, U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Bob McDonald announced the launching of the Veterans Economic Communities Initiative in 50 cities that were chosen based on veteran population, projected future increases in this population and veteran unemployment rates. Louisville was selected along with cities like New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta and San Diego among the first 25 locales to participate.
In each community, VA Economic Liaisons are tasked with encouraging public and private collaboration toward veterans’ education, training and employment opportunities. The program’s website says selected communities will conduct employment summits for veterans and employers with “immediate hiring needs,” and create policy academies to help brainstorm ideas and shape policies to increase veterans’ employment opportunities. The cities also will create plans to enhance veterans’ entrepreneurial and other skills.