The men and women who serve in the United States military and reserve forces risk their lives to protect and defend our nation. In doing so, they also make significant personal, family and career sacrifices.
The risks to life and limb of those who serve in areas of conflict are well documented, but veterans’ challenges often continue after service, in the form of interruptions to job training and work experience that can result in barriers to employment upon a return to civilian life. Although veterans often have skills and education levels that exceed those of the general population, their status as veterans, unfortunately, often is a barrier to employment, particularly in the building and construction trades.
In order to help level the playing field for unemployed veterans, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to support a program to help with outreach and job training for veterans to find work in construction related jobs.
The County is investing hundreds of millions of local and state-generated tax dollars in a number of capital projects, which, in turn, create employment opportunities. The motion approved Tuesday calls for a “good faith” effort for employers to hire veterans. The county chief executive office first will determine a hiring percentage goal for veterans, which will be presented to the board for its approval.
Completion of these capital projects will employ thousands of construction workers who will earn living wages. The projects will also provide veterans the opportunity to begin careers in construction and also receive health and retirement benefits.
“This motion is about recognizing the value of veterans as workers, which does not always happen without a push,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “Our Board has always felt a duty to ensure veterans receive the public acknowledgment and respect they deserve for their service to our country.”
Added Supervisor Michael Antonovich, who co-authored the motion with Supervisor Ridley-Thomas: “We are supporting this program to raise the consciousness that these men and women need employment; they’re trained, they’re disciplined, they’re ready to work. We’re finding hope and opportunity for our returning veterans.”
Unfortunately, when a veteran returns to civilian life, the work they have done while in service, such as welding or truck driving or even life-saving work, is often not recognized without a civilian license and training. This puts veterans at a disadvantage.
“This is a great opportunity for employers to partner with local entities such as U.S. Vets in order to find highly qualified veterans for these positions,” said Blas Villalobos, director of community programs and veterans services for U.S. Vets. “It’s going to give agencies a great opportunity to target veterans who are looking for careers in this field.”
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas commissioned a general report on veterans and a report detailing the differences between required and good faith outcomes. Fast facts from the resulting reports are detailed below.
1) LA County is home to 330,000 veterans, of which approximately 50,000 are unemployed.
2) The total population of 9/11 veterans in Los Angeles is expected to rise as the war in Afghanistan ends and the size of armed forces is reduced.
3) Los Angeles is a popular destination for newly discharged veterans and it is expected that between now and 2017 there will be an increase of 20,000 Post 9/11 veterans.
4) Increased poverty and unemployment rates put Veterans at a risk for homelessness.
5) Employment is proven to be an effective deterrent of chronic homelessness.
6) The poverty rate for Veterans in Los Angeles County has tripled (4% in 2006 to 12% in 2010).