A new program is being launched in helping veterans find jobs. This week soldiers on the Rock Island Arsenal are first to take part in a new employment mentoring program. The goal is to step up assistance as the number of veterans struggling to find work grows.
Veterans of post 9/11 wars are facing a tougher climate for jobs than civilians. According to the Department of Labor, the unemployment rate for veterans who served since September 2001
was 12.1 percent in 2011. That’s several percentage points higher than the national average of 8.9 percent for last year. About 26 percent of those unemployed veterans reported a service-related disability, which can be one of the many challenges in the transition back to civilian workforce.
About sixty soldiers from 8 states in the region are on the Rock Island Arsenal this week for a quarterly muster. They are members of the Community-Based Warrior Transition Unit, which gives support to wounded soldiers in their transition back to civilian life. This group of soldiers is the first to take part in the USO Life Skills Resources Program.
“These are folks that have given themselves, their families, at the home front have given themselves. I think it’s incumbent upon us to do what we can to help prepare them,” said John May, Chairman and CEO of USO of Illinois.
Adjusting back to civilian life can be like fighting a whole new war for returning soldiers. This pilot program is the first of its kind in the country. Organizers hope it will enhance resources already available by connecting service members with those that want to help. “Many times when military people come back they come back with all the acronyms and all the ways of doing business they’ve learned in the military.” said Jeff Blackwell, director of Black Hawk College’s Economic Development Center.
They have skills that are sometimes hard to translate into a resume or interview. That’s where more than 20 volunteers from Black Hawk College come in. They’ll conduct mock interviews and, at the end of the program, soldiers walk out with resume and cover letter in hand.
“One of the biggest challenges we’re having is, what are they going to do for the rest of their life. If they’re medically retired from the military and they can’t return to their civilian employer we have to look at how we assist them in that transition,” said 1st Sgt. John Hersey of the Community-Based Warrior Transition Unit.
“The things they haven’t done while they’ve been in country or serving we want to prepare them so they have those opportunities and have as much success as possible,” added May.
The new program is different that other assistance available for veterans because it’s a first time effort between the U.S. Army, the USO, and a local community college. It’s not a job fair, but more preparation for that. There are groups talking with the USO of Illinois about doing job fairs along with quarterly musters if this first rollout is effective.