Military News

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Integrating service members from war to workforce

Date: July 23, 2010
By Staff Sgt. Emily J. Russell
Wisconsin National Guard

Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers and Airmen have worked hard during their deployments to get the job done overseas. As those service members return to civilian life, high unemployment and an uncertain economy threatens their ability to work hard in the civilian sector.

Despite the unemployment statistics, Wisconsin veterans have an improved chance of landing a job through the help of various National Guard and state resources which aim to promote veteran employment in the civilian work force and support their reintegration to a "post-deployment normal."

"We have partnered with the Department of Workforce Development and the American Legion and planned 20 job fairs across the state," said Col. Kenneth Koon, director of manpower and personnel for the Wisconsin National Guard. "We've held them at armories, the veteran's assistance center in Milwaukee, [college campuses] and have more scheduled throughout the state through mid-October. These job fairs are for all veterans, not just [Iraq or Afghanistan] veterans."

The Wisconsin National Guard has put together a "plethora of resources to reintegrate [service members] back into society after deployment," Koon said. These services include proactive support to help service members return to their jobs or find a new one.

"It's about resiliency, and one's ability to problem solve and overcome barriers to keep one's self-worth intact," said Bob Evans, director of psychological health for the Wisconsin National Guard. "Employment is crucial - it's not just economic, but also lends to how we value ourselves. A lot of our self-worth is tied up in our employment status."

A recent survey published by the Society of Human Resource Management inquired employers of service members about the benefits and challenges they face by hiring a veteran. As part of the study, they also asked about programs designed to support veterans returning to work following a deployment. The study uncovered that 66 percent of employers are providing employee assistance programs to help service members transition back into the work place. Additionally, 58 percent are providing skill training to refresh workers' abilities on the job and 48 percent are providing flexible work hours to allow for a comfortable transition.

"We're trying to put our arms around a global opportunity," Koon said. "We've partnered with law enforcement, department of workforce development, Wisconsin department of veteran's affairs and the Society of Human Resource Managers is just a natural extension of what we do.

"We're trying to make this connection to SHRM because we think we can offer them more support to their employee assistance programs and help them to retain good employees and make them better in the long run," Koon continued. "We want to help employers understand that a service member isn't [necessarily] unruly or unhappy, it's just that sometimes they need time to reintegrate."

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