IAVA’s Summer Fighting Veteran Unemployment
Posted by Laura Smith on September 13
Last Friday the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported a 9.8 percent unemployment rate among OEF/OIF-era veterans. This is down from last month’s 12.4 percent and near half a percentage point higher than the national unemployment rate of 9.1 percent. These numbers mark the lowest unemployment rate for OEF/OIF-era veterans, but leave 195,000 veterans unemployed last month. IAVA has been working hard to support these veterans and their families by teaming up with the government, private companies, and nonprofits to get vets back to work as part of the Combat to Career campaign.
Several reports that came out before the summer highlighted the challenges OEF/OIF veterans face as they search for jobs. On Memorial Day, the Congressional Joint Economic Committee released a study that reported that the career fields many veterans choose, such as construction, mining, and transportation, were some of the hardest hit by the recession. The effects of the recession within the veteran community were further detailed in IAVA’s New York’s Newest Veterans: Key Findings and Policy Implications of the RAND Corporation’s Needs Assessment of New York State Veterans. The report described the key challenges facing OEF/OIF vets, including an unemployment rate much higher than the New York average. On top of these grim reports, the wild fluctuation of the stock market, debt limit debate, and concern if budget cuts would come at the cost of VA benefits added even more worries to veterans and their families.
IAVA, its members, supporters, and partners made progress fighting veteran unemployment this summer. Building on March’s Storm the Hill, IAVA worked with members of Congress to support new legislation designed to get veterans back to work. On May 11, IAVA Member Veteran Eric Smith joined lawmakers from the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee to introduce the Hiring Our Heroes Act of 2011. In mid-July, the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee introduced the Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) Act. Both pieces of legislation would address the need to reform the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) and gain a better understanding of how military service translates into vocational skills and certificates. To show support for these important bills, IAVA Executive Director Paul Rieckhoff and Senior Legislative Associate Tom Tarantino testified before the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees. IAVA members also joined military leaders and veterans in August onstage as the President announced a new veteran employment initiative. A couple of weeks later, three IAVA members met the President in Minnesota for a roundtable discussion on jobs.
In addition to working with the government, IAVA teamed up with partners in the private sector to help veterans find jobs, gain new skills and raise awareness about the unemployment rate. IAVA was proud to participate in the first Veterans on Wall Street (VOWS) conference. The conference brought together top Wall Street firms, the Department of Labor, and Chamber of Commerce to tackle veteran unemployment. In the shadow of the USS Intrepid in New York City approximately 100 companies and 1,500 vets took part in the job fair connected to the VOWS conference. In June, Google welcomed IAVA members to job skills workshops. Google’s highly trained staff worked with veterans to translate their military experience into civilian resumes. A month later, IAVA joined leaders from the private, public, and nonprofit sectors at the 2011 CGI America meeting in Chicago. IAVA’s Executive Director Paul Rieckhoff helped lead CGI’s new Veterans Working Group. Together business, government and nonprofit leaders designed actionable steps to lower veteran unemployment. One such step was the US Chamber of Commerce and IAVA’s commitment to host five “Smart Job Fairs” nationwide over the course of the next year. These job fairs will not only introduce companies to veterans, but also provide participants with resume writing training, career-skills workshops and investment counseling for starting small businesses.
Even as the summer comes to an end, IAVA is far from finished addressing veteran unemployment. Despite being the lowest unemployment rate for OIF/OEF-era veterans of 2011, the rate for August still remains unacceptably high. IAVA will continue to collaborate with the government, private sector and our member veterans nationwide to lower this rate and ensure the “New Greatest Generation” has the resources and tools they need to find the jobs they deserve.
To find out how you can help fund the fight against veteran unemployment or learn more about IAVA and our partners, please visit the Combat to Career hub.
Laura Smith is a Summer Research Intern at IAVA in Washington, D.C. She just received her M.A. from the Graduate School of Public & International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh. Laura is the proud sister of two Navy officers and the daughter of a Navy veteran. Follow her on Twitter at @LKSinDC.
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