By Michael Blecker, Swords to Plowshares’ Executive Director
Published May 24, 2012 in the New York Times
Today’s veterans are returning to an economy challenged by record unemployment rates and a stagnant job market. At the federal, state and local levels we are failing to help veterans transition from military service to the civilian work force. After World War II, exemplary programs and support for veterans created the American middle class and helped the “greatest generation” to become great. We owe this generation nothing less.
We must create meaningful job opportunities and begin by forging partnerships to capitalize on available resources and expertise. There are many community-based organizations that receive federal funding to provide veterans with job training, but a lack of collaboration between public, private and nonprofit entities squanders efforts to successfully reach, train and place veterans in jobs. What good is an investment in job training programs without commitments from employers to hire the graduates?
The business community needs to understand its responsibility to our veterans and the community. The value of a veteran to an employer is undeniable when you consider the soft skills developed while serving the country, but it is the translation of their hard skills to the civilian job market that poses the biggest challenge. Many employers are unfamiliar with the skills and training that veterans have. That is where veteran groups can help. Collaboration is key.
With so many men and women returning from military service, we need comprehensive and accessible programs and services now more than ever. We cannot allow a loss of funding or a decline in public interest to prevent us from carrying out our mission to serve those who put their lives on the line. Our nation has a long road ahead of us to ensure today’s generation of veterans have access to the services and care they need to successfully transition from combat to the community.