Posted: May 23, 2011 8:59 PM by Tayler Overschmidt
Updated: May 25, 2011 6:29 PM
COLUMBIA - The unemployment rate for Missouri is more than nine percent, and the state government is working to help one group find jobs faster. The Show-Me Heroes program is meant to work with veterans' career centers to connect businesses and unemployed veterans.
Through the Show-Me Heroes program, businesses can take a pledge to hire veterans. After taking the pledge, the businesses' names and locations are put on the website.
"The job search can be a daunting process, so we hope to facilitate that connection between job-seeker and open job a little bit," Show-Me Heroes director Alan Rohlfing said. "We hope to help job-seekers improve their skills, and we hope to educate the employers on what veterans can bring to the table."
Robert Smith, an unemployed veteran, said his biggest challenges include trouble finding a job in his area and a competitive job market.
"My biggest challenge, I think, is probably just being able to get to a job site and then being able to get an interview, because it's so many people applying, that you just have to keep calling, keep calling, and just stay at it," Smith said.
Unemployed veterans can use this information to find employers and other resources. The program, which started in January 2010, recently passed 1,300 participating businesses.
More than 250 businesses in the central Missouri region have made the pledge to hire veterans so far. Rohlfing said about 260 veterans have found jobs with the help of Show-Me Heroes around the state since it started.
"Our job seeking veterans range from the seasoned National Guardsmen, who's returning from an overseas deployment, to that 22-year-old marine who's just separating from active service," Rohlfing said. "While some have years and years of prior civilian work experience, others don't have any, and the full range in between."
He said the number of hired veterans could be higher but the only way to know for sure is when a business reports the veteran-hire themselves. The program is non-binding and businesses don't have to have open positions to make the pledge.
MBS Textbook Exchange in Columbia hired ten veterans through the program. Jerome Rader, a representative for the company, said the process of pledging and reporting hires is not difficult. He said veterans often have skills that make them good employees.
"I think it's the right thing to do," Jerome Rader, a spokesperson for MBS, said. "They've provided service to the country, no matter what branch that they may have been in service for, the skill set, the abilities that they've gained while in service is just another positive attribute when you're looking at employment opportunities."
Rohlfing says it's difficult to judge the effectiveness of the program just by looking at the numbers, since the pledges don't require specific action from the businesses. He said the program is effective just because it's raising awareness for businesses and unemployed veterans around the state.
"I would love to see all employers hire veterans for their open jobs, but I also recognize that employers need the most qualified candidates for their job openings," he said. "We're trying to take a two-pronged approach. One is to educate the employers on what veterans can bring to their workforce. The other side of that coin, though, is to educate the job seeker."
The Show-Me Heroes program works with veterans' representatives at the Missouri Career Centers around the state. The career centers have been around for years to help veterans with resumes and job searches.
Veterans' program coordinator, Shams Chughtai says the career centers around the state work with several thousand veterans a month.
"The way I measure success is we are helping that veteran who did not have the opportunity before, who now has an opportunity to provide for their families because he has a job," Chughtai said.
Chughtai said veterans need help with translating military training to civilian skills. He said the career centers work with the veterans to help train them for jobs in the office.
"If I had a magic wand to make changes, what I would like to do is see more training opportunities for these veterans," he said. "Because a lot of these veterans, when they come back, they have the skills, but they might not necessarily have the specific training, and I think if we could provide them more training in those civilian sectors, that would help them transition a little better."
Rohlfing said they recently re-launched their website to focus more on helping veterans find employers. He said the Show-Me Heroes program raises awareness for businesses about the importance of hiring veterans and it raises awareness for unemployed veterans about job opportunities.
For more information about the program and the businesses that have pledged in central Missouri go to http://www.showmeheroes.mo.gov/default.aspx