COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley joined state employment officials and members of the state National Guard Wednesday to kick off an effort to battle nagging unemployment among military veterans and help them find jobs in the civilian world.
"We have a lot of servicemen and women who still need help" when seeking employment after they leave the service or while they are serving as members of the part-time National Guard, the governor said at the event in Columbia.
While the state's overall unemployment rate dropped to 6.6 percent in December, state employment officials told the gathering that the unemployment rate for all veterans in the state ranks at 6.9 percent.
Worse, the unemployment rate is 8 percent for young veterans who served in the military since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, said Cheryl Stanton, director of the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce.
Maj. Gen. Les Eisner, the deputy commander of the S.C. National Guard, said the new initiative builds on a program that has been underway inside the Guard since 2011.
The Guard brought its 16 percent unemployment rate among its members down to less than 4 percent by working "one-on-one" with its members to help them write resumes, learn new skills and get introductions to potential employers, the two-star general said.
Much of the effort boils down to introducing veterans to employers who might not understand their skills and how they can adapt to the civilian workforce, Eisner said.
"Hiring veterans makes good sense and it makes the employers look smarter, too," Eisner said.
The effort is dubbed "Operation Palmetto Employment," and features a new website that lists multiple information and education sources that could assist members of the active duty military, the part-time National Guard and Reserve, and members of their families.
Haley described the effort as attempting to forge a "one-stop shop" of information for members of the military community who need help acclimating to the civilian working world.
According to the website, members of the military community can create an individual account, where they may post an updated resume to search for jobs and training opportunities.
As a special perk, veterans and members of the military community will be given access to jobs posted on the site for the first 24 hours before anyone else can view or apply for the position, the website said.
State officials said a planning committee has been drawn up to meet quarterly to keep the effort's goals on track. All interested parties are also supposed to meet annually to review the effort's practices and see what improvements or updates need to be made.
George Goldsmith, a retired two-star Army general who is chairman of the South Carolina Military Affairs Committee, a local booster group for the military, said he thinks the program will prove to be a shot-in-the-arm for veterans seeking work.
"Basically, it provides one system to identify potential workers and make it easier for them to be matched with employers," Goldsmith said.
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