Youth & Opportunity
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By: Kim Bodine, Executive Director, Gulf Coast Workforce Board
Note: This post is part of a weeklong celebration of U.S. military veterans. You can find more stories and resources at the Microsoft Citizenship website.
I’ve been working with employers in our area for more than 15 years and time and time again I hear businesses refer to those who have served in military as America’s best and brightest. I found that out first hand when I hired Joe Chavarria, a 20 year Air Force Vet.
The first day on the job, Joe Chavarria showed up fifteen minutes early. He later told me that “in the military if you’re right on time you are considered late.” Not only did Joe make a great impression on that first day but he became a valuable team member, demonstrating great leadership and networking skills. In fact, people around the office jokingly call him Mr. 24/7.
Joe is one of thousands of military veterans in our community. Today’s veterans bring unique skills and experience to the civilian workforce. Their advanced training and ability to adapt to new circumstances make them excellent employees, with a high rate of retention.
John Ed McDanal, District Manager for the Gulf Power Company in Panama City, Florida told me that “Veterans bring leadership to the workplace. They are dependable, disciplined and have a strong commitment to excellence.”
Jeanette Deatherage, Veterans Employment Representative at our local one stop career center and a military veteran herself explained to me that the military trains people to perform. “They do their job, do it right the first time and do it in a timely manner. They are continuously setting priorities, meeting schedules and accomplishing their missions.”
There are numerous skills and attributes that today’s veterans bring to the table. According to the US Department of Labor, here are the top five reasons to hire veterans:
Not only does hiring veterans make good business sense, but it allows you to return the favor for their service and sacrifice. As an added bonus, businesses may even qualify for tax credits and incentives for hiring disabled vets. For more information on hiring veterans, please contact your local one stop career center or visit www.careeronestop.org.
Kim Bodine, Executive Director, Gulf Coast Workforce Board
More veterans resources:
By: Sloan Gibson, USO President
Your USO works to lift to the spirits of America’s troops and their families. When assessing how well we fulfill that mission, we ask, “Who needs us most?”
Clearly those who are serving in harm’s way – at small forward operating bases in harsh, dangerous conditions – are on that list. Here at home, their families, many experiencing their third or fourth deployment, are not just missing their loved one, but worrying about their family member’s safe return. They need us, too.
Recently, I attended a Dignified Transfer at Dover Air Force Base. A young soldier killed in Iraq was returning home for the last time. I stood on the tarmac in the early evening with his mother, grandmother, and sister as the flag-draped case was reverently carried from the plane. That very morning, they had answered the knock at the door every family prays will never come. Can we ever repay our debt to that family?
So, too, our wounded warriors and their families have paid a high price in body and soul. Their lives have been turned upside down. They will never be the same again. We owe them our very best.
One of the great challenges confronting all of us as Americans is the need to help our troops and their families deal with the stresses of the combat deployments. You have seen the news accounts of record numbers of suicides among those in uniform and veterans. It is our duty to conform and support these men and women who have served us so honorably.
Healing from the wounds of war is not just a physical process. In fact, in many respects, the mental and emotional challenges are the most daunting. The goal is to inspire all wounded warriors to get back into life – to realize that they are limited only by their imagination and their willingness to commit to the hard work to achieve any goal.
The USO, approaching its 70th year, is uniquely positioned to establish a first-class support network to help care for America’s wounded warriors. Under USO Wounded Warriors, the USO is building a community of care to help meet the non-medical needs these troops and families have from the time of their evacuation from the battlefield until their return to communities across the country prepared for a happy and full life.
Through USO Wounded Warriors, wounded warriors and their families will have access to:
Your USO will always be there to support troops and their families that need us. Can we ever do enough to help these heroes and their families have every chance at a full and complete life. We hope you will join us today as we try.
Please visit our website www.USO.org/WoundedWarriors to learn more.
Sloan Gibson, USO President
Some recent stories from the USO:
By MCPO Maurice Wilson (USN-Ret.), Advisory Board member to Activision’s Call of Duty Endowment
For the families of our soldiers, President Obama’s timetable to bring our troops home at the end of 2011, provides hope and a tangible pledge that their sons, daughters, spouses and parents will be returning to them. For the rest of us, it’s an urgent challenge. It means we have little time left to make sure we don’t do to our soldiers in 2011 what we did to hundreds of young veterans nearly 40 years ago when they returned home from Southeast Asia.
Today’s soldiers that are lucky enough to return home with body and emotions intact face a fresh battle they are often ill-equipped to fight. By some measurements, unemployment among returning veterans is above 20%, roughly twice the national average, and is near 85% for our injured veterans. Just as concerning, the starting pay for veterans averages $10,000 less than what they would make if they had never gone into service.
Recognizing that the private sector is as responsible as the government is in trying to solve this problem, a little more than a year ago, Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard, Inc., asked myself and several former high ranking members of the military to join an advisory board for a newly established non- profit, The Call of Duty Endowment. The organization is dedicated to funding and supporting efforts to provide veterans with job training and placement and bringing greater awareness to this important issue.
Bobby established the Call of Duty Endowment with $1 million in initial seed money to proactively encourage employers to consider veterans for job openings so they can build the foundation for their futures with 21st Century jobs and careers. He saw the creation of the Endowment as a way to recognize the incredible sacrifices endured by our nation’s young men and women in service. It is also his belief, and one that is shared by me and my fellow advisory board members, that our men and women who have given so much to protect our nation and our liberties should not have to return home from one battle only to face another in finding a civilian career.
Since its inception, the Call of Duty Endowment has provided close to $500,000 in grants and scholarships. Organizations and schools that have benefited from the resources of the Endowment include Paralyzed Veterans of America, Wounded Warrior Project, Still Serving Hire Heroes USA, Austin Community College, and Madison Area Technical College, just to name a few.
The men and women that serve in our Armed Forces deserve to be rewarded for the sacrifices they have made to protect our nation, and as an advisory board member to the Call of Duty Endowment I salute this innovative effort put forth by Bobby Kotick and Activision. I hope that more leaders in corporate America will recognize the strengths our veterans bring to the office, laboratory or factory floor with their maturity, discipline, integrity and ability to perform under pressure honed under the stress of close combat. It is only just that we honor them and their families for answering their own call of duty.
About the Call of Duty Endowment
The Call of Duty Endowment helps soldiers transition to civilian careers after their military service, focusing on a variety of initiatives providing job placement and training to veterans and raising public awareness about the issue. Launched in November 2009 by Activision Blizzard, Inc., a worldwide online, PC and console video game publisher and publisher of the best-selling Call of Duty® video game franchise, the Call of Duty Endowment has already provided hundreds of thousands of dollars to support this work.
By Bill Lawson, National President of Paralyzed Veterans of America
Most people would agree: America’s veterans with disabilities--those who have served and sacrificed for our freedoms--clearly deserve a fair shot at what is at the heart of the American dream, a good job with a good company. Indeed we are proud to partner with Microsoft on its Elevate America's Veterans Initiative to help make this goal a reality.
Yet as we celebrate Veterans Day this month, the unemployment statistic for veterans with severe disabilities is a startling 85 percent.
How can we work together to change this picture and to turn this grim statistic around? How can we bring the collective power of the public and private sectors together to improve the quality of paralyzed veterans’ lives while also improving business’ bottom line?
At Paralyzed Veterans of America (www.pva.org), we decided to meet this challenge head on through our Mission: ABLE initiative (www.mission-able.com) - helping those who wore the uniform and were seriously injured get good jobs and careers.
We invested in a vocational rehabilitation program, designed to empower veterans with disabilities with the services and tools they need to reintegrate into the job market—while matching them with businesses and organizations with career positions.
The program -- with offices in Richmond, VA, Minneapolis, MN, San Antonio, TX, Long Beach, CA and Boston, MA -- was established through an innovative public-private partnership between Paralyzed Veterans of America, businesses, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). In fact, our sixth office will open its doors, at no cost to the tax payers, later this month and is based at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta, Georgia.
We have helped hundreds of veterans with disabilities through this program and have developed working relationships with more than 300 employers. Of those helped, 120 have already obtained new careers with numerous employers. Sixty three program clients are veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq.
There are three elements that work to make the program a success: connecting with veterans, connecting with businesses and changing perceptions.
The program receives clients in a number of ways, from visiting newly injured patients to word of mouth. But the most important thing is that the program proactively reaches out to the veterans, often meeting them early in the rehabilitation process, engaging patients, their families, and outpatients alike and publicizing the program at events and in the media. With our offices located in VA spinal cord injury (SCI) centers, we maximize vocational rehabilitation exposure to the SCI veterans and service providers.
Our voc rehab counselors network with chambers of commerce, community organizations such as Rotary, job fairs, and veterans employment coordinators. They attend meetings and reach out to local and national employers to develop a network of business leaders who want to hire America’s veterans.
For veterans with disabilities, career opportunities can change the expectations of the veterans we are serving. With encouragement and help, they feel empowered to take that next step to getting a good job and career.
For businesses, veterans make great employees. They are disciplined, focused, reliable, hard working, team players, and much more. We also spend time educating employers on working with people with disabilities. We complete a work assessment of the position to ensure we provide a good fit for the employer. We assess any accommodations that may be necessary. We also provide information on tax and other incentives that vary by state for hiring people with disabilities. Plus, the program is recognized as an approved “employer network” by the Social Security Administration.
The truth is: Hiring more veterans with disabilities is a win, win for our country. Those who served secure good careers; employers get great employees; and, in turn, our economy becomes stronger.
It’s a strategy that helps empower America’s best with everything they need to live full, self-sufficient and productive lives. It’s a strategy that’s good for business and great for our nation.
Employers: America needs you to hire more paralyzed and disabled veterans!
Bill Lawson, National President of Paralyzed Veterans of America
Bill Lawson (U.S. Army, Ret.) of Woodward, Oklahoma was elected National President of Paralyzed Veterans of America at its 64th Annual Convention in August. He is a staunch advocate for veterans and people with disabilities.
In the United States, November 11th is Veterans Day - a time when the country stops and recognizes the incredible service and sacrifice of those who have served their country with such distinction. This week we want to celebrate our veterans and highlight not only their achievements, but also shine a light on the challenges they face as they transition back into civilian life and the incredible work underway across the country to help them.
This week we are dedicating our Citizenship web site and the Unlimited Potential blog to celebrate U.S. veterans and their families and bring you some new perspectives and opinions.
Back in March we announced our Elevate America Veterans initiative. This is an extension of our Elevate America program that puts a focus on helping U.S. veterans and their spouses to successfully make the transition from military to civilian employment. As we have worked on building the program we have had the opportunity to work closely with many of the incredible Veterans Services Organizations, nonprofits and veterans themselves and have along the way got some great insight into the challenges our veterans face when they leave the military.
It was this experience that gave us the idea of dedicating a full week to share those stories and highlight those challenges.
During the week you will:
We hope you’ll find the stories we share this week interesting and thought provoking. If nothing else, we hope it’ll provide you with a new perspective on the men and women who selflessly dedicate their lives to serving their country.
This week is a great opportunity to reflect and recognize on the incredible contribution our veterans make to our country. We hope our small effort can help to shine a light on that.
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