A new initiative will aim to reduce the number of jobless veterans in the region by coordinating existing job services for veterans with companies looking to hire.
Stefani Pashman, Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board CEO, said the goal of the Veterans Value Initiative is to increase communication and awareness for everyone involved in the process.
“What we know is that there are many services throughout our region, but many of them are disconnected,” Pashman said.
According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau and American Community Survey, average unemployment rate in Allegheny County among veterans from 2008 to 2012 was 7.9 percent, compared to 7.3 percent for non-veterans.
The initiative will aim to primarily place veterans in high-demand jobs in the fields of energy, manufacturing and technology, according to Pashman.
Funded by a $500,000 federal grant, she said the program will coordinate the efforts of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, several community colleges and the Public Workforce System, a federal program that helps expand and develop the talent of the nation’s workforce.
Although there are many services available to them, veterans are often confused about what services to use, Pashman said.
“But our employers are really enthusiastic about hiring them,” she said. “We just have to find a way to connect those dots. How do we bring employers to the table to talk about the skills that they need, and how do we help veterans translate their knowledge and experience and make those connections for them.”
She added that employers often do not understand the language that veterans use when they talk about their past experience on a résumé.
But she adds that veterans are a very diverse group, with diverse skill sets.
“There are veterans who are recent returnees who have a different sort of skill set and specific needs, and there are veterans from many, many years ago from the Vietnam War that could have very different needs that also create barriers for employment,” she said.
According to Pashman, one of those barriers can be the need for mental health services.
She said the transition in urgency from the battlefield to the workplace is a challenge unique to veterans, and they often do better when they are among other veterans.
“Putting veterans together in a cohort where they can support each other is also very powerful,” she said. “So having them in programs where they’re working with people like them, who have those similar experiences, who understand how to support each other, are some of the reasons why it’s the most powerful way to do it.”