Program for unemployed veterans launched
Capt. Andrea Bond will soon be done with her temporary National Guard position.
But what she wants to do for a living after serving for 15 years is still a question mark.
The Blackhawk helicopter pilot, community outreach coordinator and public affairs officer gained plenty of skills while serving in the military. But finding a job in the civilian world is still a challenge.
"In the military, your job entails a lot of different things," she said.
"Soldiers sell themselves short," she added, referring to the transition they face when coming out of the service.
Bond and two other veterans attended the first of many meetings to come as part of the "Commander's Call: Job Search for Veterans" pilot program in Woodbury.
The program, a partnership between the Woodbury Community Foundation, the Yellow Ribbon Network and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, began Tuesday, Sept. 6 at the Washington County Workforce Center in Woodbury.
It is aimed at connecting veterans with local employers to help them find full-time employment suited for their skills.
The problem with finding employment as a veteran, Bond said, is "translating skills" soldiers learn in the military into jobs that various industries could use.
She said she quickly learned how to make decisions on the spot, how to lead a team and how to be responsible for equipment and protect the lives of others.
However, unemployment among veterans is higher than any other population, said Barb O'Reilly, director of women veteran and employment initiatives for the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs.
The reason for that, she added, is the perception that veterans coming back from deployment are "broken," though she said they are returning more resilient than when they left, stronger than ever and more resourceful.
Additionally, many employers are afraid to hire a veteran who's still in the National Guard or the U.S. Army Reserves.
"The challenge of hiring somebody who could still deploy, for some, is a limiting factor," O'Reilly said.
The Commander's Call kicked off with a meeting to begin connecting with veterans in the community.
Dick Hanson, second vice chair and secretary for the Woodbury Community Foundation, said the program is part of the organization's jobs initiative that has a goal of helping non-veterans find employment as well.
The program's next big day is Oct. 12, when veteran job seekers will be brought to network with multiple area businesses.
But before that happens, the program will connect veterans to businesses in a mentor- setting to help with their job search.
After that, a six-month process begins where "Commander's Call" will help place area veterans in appropriate jobs, Hanson said.
"It's all about outreach and getting the right people at the table," he added.
For more information about the program, contact the Woodbury Community Foundation at 651-788-6586.