A Legislative Column by Assemblyman Will Barclay
Recently, my office was contacted by a family member of a decorated soldier who had retired after serving 20 years in the Army at Fort Drum.
In addition to serving the Army with distinction, he found the time to take college courses, earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management and raise a family.
Armed with the leadership experience from the military and his college degree, it seemed that transitioning into civilian life and finding his next career would be easy.
Unfortunately, his experience proved otherwise.
He submitted hundreds of resumes to businesses throughout Central and Northern New York and received few interviews.
When he did secure an interview, he was told by a number of employers that they were unsure how his military experience could translate into “civilian employment.”
Months went by and he still didn’t have a job.
As you can imagine, facing these barriers to employment was frustrating, financially straining and disappointing for him and his family.
He proudly served our country and took pride with what he accomplished yet his service was acting as a barrier to his next steps in life.
It took over four months for him to finally land a job.
Unfortunately, his experience is not an isolated instance and many veterans find it difficult to find a job after serving.
According to a report by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that veterans who served post 9/11 face higher unemployment rates when compared to non-veterans and veterans who served during different time periods.
These findings are concerning because employment plays an important role to transitioning into post-military life and has a positive impact on veterans’ lives.
When employers hire veterans they are getting a proven set of talented employees who are able to adapt, exhibit strong leadership and organizational skills and have experience working in a team setting.
Some of the barriers to employment appear to be the lack of knowledge by employers about skills acquired in the military, how they can translate to their workforce and a lack of knowledge of existing programs that have been designed to help veterans with education, training and employment.
New York State has some programs designed to help veterans transition to civilian life and find employment.
The New York State Division of Veterans’ Affairs has Veterans Benefit Advisors who work with veterans on a case-by-case basis to connect them with services and benefits that may be available to them and their family.
They can be reached at 1-888-838-7697 or online at http://www.veterans.ny.gov/
If a veteran is only looking for employment assistance, the Department of Labor has local Veterans Employment Representatives at most career centers throughout the state.
They specialize in advocating on behalf of veterans with business, industry, and community organizations to promote employment and training opportunities for veterans.
They also provide services including job matching and job placement for veterans, conduct employer outreach, inform federal contractors of the process to hire qualified veterans, and promote credentialing and licensing opportunities for veterans.
To find one nearby, visit http://www.labor.ny.gov/vets/employspec/veteransemployspec.shtm or call 1-888-469-7365.
In addition to state programs, there are number of locally established organizations whose mission is to help veterans transition.
Clear Path for Veterans is a resource center that partners with local businesses and organizations to connect veterans and their families to resources they need.
The Clear Path Employment Program aims to empower veterans and provides career services support customized to the individual.
Any veteran who seeks to start a career or desires to continue in his or her current workplace can benefit from a call or visit to Clear Path for Veterans.
In addition to employment services, there are programs for children of military families and spouses, recreational programs and a “wingman” program that pairs new veterans with other veterans who can provide support and guidance.
To find out more, visit http://www.clearpath4vets.com/ or call (315) 687-3300.
The Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University is another entity that is dedicated to this issue.
In addition to acting as a bridge between veterans, government and employers, they also provide resources to veterans for employment opportunities and entrepreneurship.
Their focus is dual in nature – helping veterans transition into civilian life and to provide training and tools for employers so they can adopt strategies to make hiring military veterans a priority.
To learn more about their program visit http://vets.syr.edu/
As more men and women leave military service and enter civilian life, it is important for the state and the federal government to be responsive to their needs.
We have a moral obligation to the men and women who sacrificed so much to protect and serve our great country.
Their service to our country should not go unrecognized and certainly should not act as barrier to employment.
I’m interested to hear your thoughts on how the state can help further to make the transition for our veterans to civilian life.
If you have a suggestion, please call or write to my office.
My office can be reached by mail at 200 N. Second St., Fulton, NY 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185.
You can also friend me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.