WASHINGTON -- Communities, nonprofit organizations and companies are reaching out to support unemployed American veterans in their search for work, and one of the companies joining in the effort is information technology giant, Microsoft Corp.
It was last Veterans Day when Microsoft kicked off its grant campaign, "Elevate America Veterans Initiative," by awarding $2 million in cash and up to $6 million in software and information technology training to six nonprofit agencies that support veterans in varying fashions. And now, these six nonprofits are beginning to open their classroom doors after looking at the needs to better help their local veterans.
Selected from a pool of 100 applicants, each of the six has something different to offer its veterans, across different regions of the country.
The six awardees are:
** Able-Disabled Advocacy Inc., San Diego, San Diego VetWORKS
** Bellevue College, Bellevue, Wash., Project SUCCEED
** Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont Inc., Charlotte, N.C., Elevate America's Veterans Initiative
** Gulf Coast Workforce Board, Panama City, Fla., Mission: 21st Century
** Per Scholas, New York City and Miami, Microsoft Veterans Employment Project
** Veterans Inc., Worcester, Mass., Veterans Inc. Employment and Training Program
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, often cites the many benefits veterans bring to the workplace.
"Veterans bring a maturity," Mullen has said. "They bring leadership. They bring a life experience. They bring a dedication they may not have had when they were 17, 18 or 19 years old."
The most-recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that unemployed military veterans currently comprise 10.2 percent of the national unemployment rate.
With those statistics in mind, Microsoft awarded the grants to train unemployed veterans, and their spouses who also can't find work, in the latest technology to ready them for the 21st-century job market, said Andrea Taylor, Microsoft's director for North America Community Affairs.
Each of the organizations awarded grants is able to offer more than information technology training over the course of the two-year program. Grant money also can go toward mentoring and resume writing, career counseling and help with child care and transportation.
In developing the programs that would benefit returning veterans and their spouses, Microsoft met with nationally recognized veterans service organizations for guidance and feedback. This advisory group included members from the American Legion, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Paralyzed Veterans of America, United Service Organizations and the Wounded Warrior Project.
Taylor believes 190,000 individuals could be assisted through the corporation's grants. She also estimates that 40 percent of unemployed veterans also have spouses in need of job training programs.
With training programs just beginning at the six nonprofits, each must address their veterans' individual needs. One of the nonprofits is focusing on training for jobs that promise the most growth in future years.
Veterans Inc., in Worcester, Mass., helps veterans acquire new skills, licenses and certifications for jobs they can hire into now, while working on other skills necessary for jobs in the future.
The nonprofit is promoting information technology training, and "a variety of industries in areas that respond to the demands of the labor market," said retired Air Force veteran Vincent J. Perrone, the president and chief executive officer for Veterans Inc.
Such opportunities might be in "green jobs in energy-efficient building jobs, construction management, network security, computer specialist jobs, project management, health care support, and jobs as security guards, cooks and food preparation workers," Perrone said.
Perrone says Veterans Inc. will offer workshops in resume writing, interviewing for a job, life skills, nutrition, money management, and tips on dressing for success.
"This program will serve veterans, returning servicemembers, and their spouses in need throughout Massachusetts," he said.
"The projected number of participants to receive grant services [at Veterans Inc.] is 130 to 170," Perrone said, predicting that 115 of his group's veterans will find work in the first year.
Microsoft's veterans program is supplemental to government agencies that offer benefits to unemployed veterans, like the Department of Veterans Affairs, Taylor said.
"Our program is intended to build on what's already there," she said.
"Veterans, young and old, seem to be 'invisible members' in our communities," Taylor continued. "The young ones don't have relationships with organizations that can help them," compared to the older set that's connected to groups such as the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
"Veterans have served their country and they've served well," Taylor said. "They have excellent training in leadership skills, discipline and preparation. But what they often lack is the ability to transition from those skills in a military atmosphere, into civilian jobs."