Now more than any time in our nation’s history our armed forces are under a tremendous amount of stress. With more young Americans coming home from wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, we are seeing extremely high numbers of unemployment and homelessness among our returning veterans. The Bureau of Labor Statistics puts unemployment for veterans ages 18 to 24 at over 21% — more than double the national average. This problem isn’t just prevalent with younger soldiers – it is seen across all ages and backgrounds.
To be frank, these are unacceptable statistics.
That is why the news of recent legislation proposed by New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is so encouraging. The Hiring Heroes Act of 2011 will provide job-training skills and make the government’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP) mandatory for servicemen and women. A joint effort of the Labor, Defense, and Veteran Affairs departments, TAP is only used by 1/3 of veterans seeking employment. Mandatory participation can go a long way in placing veterans in positions where they can use the skills developed in the service in private sector settings. This is one small step that can be taken to make sure veterans know of all the job placement and training opportunities available to them.
We can and must do more to ensure our veterans are able to make a living once they return from service. In New Jersey, my organization Bright Star Scanning is working to accomplish this same goal as Senator Gillibrand: giving our veterans job training and employment prospects when they return home from their service.
Bright Star is using a two-step approach. First, returning veterans are placed in a job-training program where they learn compliance management, workflow mapping and analysis, business process optimization, and high-volume document imaging services to federal, state, and local government agencies. Next, they are placed with a team where they put these skills to use under the supervision of a mentor.
We are training returning veterans with a 21st century skill that can be applied in both the public and private sector. Just like Senator Gillibrand’s proposed legislation, we are looking for new ways to combat the high unemployment rates among our returning soldiers. We need a new approach to protect these people who are doing so much to protect our way of life.
A government that is not actively protecting our veterans is failing.
Right now we are failing. We never hear of soldiers questioning our foreign policy or deployment-after-deployment as we fight wars on two fronts. They are trained to take orders and carry out missions. They need a voice advocating on their behalf to bring down these high unemployment statistics among their ranks and give them the job training they need to thrive in the 21st century economy.
Senator Gillibrand’s legislation is a great first step.
Veteran employment placement must become a priority for our local, state, and federal governments. A good place to start is preferential hiring practices in jobs that are natural fits based upon skills learned in the military – specifically with police and fire departments. If our veterans can protect in warzones abroad, they are surely qualified to protect our streets at home.