Wake Tech working to put vets on front line in workforce
Posted November 8, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — Amid the ceremonies and parades for Veterans Day, veterans still face real challenges when they come home, including finding jobs.
The unemployment rate among veterans was 6.9 percent in October, up from 6.3 percent a year earlier, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The overall unemployment rate was 7.3 percent last month.
Female veterans are twice as likely as males to be jobless – 14.8 percent of female veterans in North Carolina were out of work in 2011-12, compared with 6.2 percent of males – so state and local leaders are taking steps to change that.
Wake Technical Community College recently won a grant for a retraining program that focuses on female and older vets.
Veteran enrollment at Wake Tech is up from 900 four years ago to 1,400, and Bob Mielish, the college's veterans affairs coordinator, predicts that it will keep rising as the military reduces its active-duty forces.
"A lot of them are enlisted. They haven't been to college. They only have those skills that they've done," Mielish said. "We want to make sure that we're ready to handle their challenges and to give them the skills that they need in the workforce."
Wake Tech hopes to launch the training program next year, he said, and officials want to match up veterans' skills to job needs to see if they can speed up certification programs.
Mielish said that, while private employers need to hire more veterans, the vets must meet them halfway.
"It just can't be, 'Hey, I'm a veteran. I'm here, give me a job,' and it can't be the state saying, 'You'll give these guys a job,'" he said. "It has to be all of us combined. Everyone has a stake in it."
Rep. Grier Martin, D-Wake, said state lawmakers have been working every session to help military families find jobs. But with more veterans entering the workforce, it's not easy to keep up.
"As long as we've got veterans of all eras who are having trouble finding a job, the state needs to do more," said Martin, a member of the Army Reserve.
Army veteran Christine Ward is working on a new career after having trouble finding a job. Her son is also a veteran, and she said he's been jobless since he came home from Afghanistan.
"You go from taking care of the country, and then you come home, you can't take care of your family because you don't have the money," Ward said.
Bridget Patterson, another Army veteran, said retraining is tough, but she's optimistic.
"Don't give up. Keep trying. Do what you have to do to survive," Patterson said.