Workforce officials hope to improve veteran employmentThe state of Wisconsin doesn’t have good data to show veterans have a higher rate of unemployment.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
The state of Wisconsin doesn’t have good data to show veterans have a higher rate of unemployment.
But estimates place unemployment among Wisconsin veterans returning from war between 11 and 12 percent, according to Department of Workforce Development Deputy Secretary Jonathan Barry.
“We recently passed some legislation in the Wisconsin Legislature that addresses issues that are related directly to veterans,” Barry said. “The returning veterans come back with the some skill sets and the governor (Scott Walker) designated 2012 the Year of the Veteran. And the legislature responded with three bills making it easier to get licensure.”
While veterans may have the skills necessary to perform certain jobs, such as driving a truck or performing as a medical technician, those skills require specific licensing to be performed outside of a military setting in Wisconsin.
Barry said legislation passed this year makes it easier for veterans to get the necessary licenses to work in the private sector, such as expediting any necessary testing, and waives the fees typically associated with becoming a licensed professional.
“Say you’re driving a truck over the hump in Afghanistan,” Barry said. “You probably really qualify for a truck driver’s license, so they tried to streamline the testing and the requirements. That passed the legislature with overwhelming support.”
He said that has help place veterans in jobs.
In Superior, he said there has been successes such as getting one veteran hired as a truck driver for Minnesota Power, a machinist working at Genesis Attachments, and another training to be a conductor for Canadian Pacific with a starting wage of $55,000 a year.
Among the biggest issues for veterans re-entering the job market are being able to translate their military skills into the private sector workforce, and fear among employers that once hired, the veteran will be called to duty again, said Tom Casey, a veterans services representative for a 10-county area in northern Wisconsin. He works in the Superior Job Center.
Since the war in Afghanistan started in 2001, and the war in Iraq started in 2003, it’s been common for service members to deploy to the theaters of war multiple times.
The former 724th Engineer Battalion Company B in Superior, now the 950th Clearance Co., served tours of duty Iraq in 2003-04 and 2010-11, requiring many soldiers in the Superior-based National Guard unit to serve overseas more than once in the last decade. The same holds true for service members from Wisconsin serving in the Minnesota National Guard and Air National Guard.
Barry said he’s hopeful now that the war and military presence in Iraq has ended, and things are winding down in the Afghanistan war, that is a concern employers will be able to set aside to benefit from the skills, discipline and work ethic today’s returning service members and bring down the rate of unemployment.
“Veterans get a little bit of a preference and a little bit of an edge, but it’s not a big one,” Barry said.
Casey said it’s his job to reach out to returning veterans in the 10-county area of northern Wisconsin to make sure veterans are aware of the workforce services available to them.
And services are available to veterans left disabled by the wars.
Thomas Draghi, head of the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation in Superior, said while most veterans with disabilities avail themselves to federal programs, the Superior Job Center does have the ability to work with veterans with disabilities to get them back in the job market and employed again.
For information on available job placement services for veterans, call the Superior Job Center at (715) 392-7808 or toll free at (800) 991-5288.