Program to help Guard members in SC finds jobs expanded

jwilkinson@thestate.comFebruary 26, 2014 

Job fair at Ft. Jackson for military men and women, military veterans and their spouses on February 11, 2014.

GERRY MELENDEZ — gmelendez@thestate.com Buy Photo

  • Operation Palmetto Employment

    How veterans seeking employment can get more information about the new program:

    •  Go online to operationpalmettoemployment.sc.gov

    •  Call program manager Kyle Caldwell at (803) 299-1639.

    •  Email Caldwell at kyle.r.caldwell2.mil@mail.mil.

— A program that has slashed unemployment to less than 4 percent from 16 percent in 2011 among S.C. National Guard members is being expanded statewide.

Gov. Nikki Haley joined S.C. Guard Maj. Gen. Les Eisner, Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt and other Cabinet members and military officials on Monday to launch Operation Palmetto Employment. The announcement was made at a luncheon at the Sysco Columbia food wholesaler, where veterans make up a large percentage of the work force.

Haley said the program would help troops of all branches leaving military service find jobs in the state. But it also would supply businesses, large and small, with dependable, trainable, drug-free and dedicated workers.

“We’re not only just helping military men and women and their families, we’re actually helping our business people,” she said. “These are tremendous workers.”

The program, with the help of a $750,000 Department of Defense grant, will pair unemployed veterans with S.C. Guard employment advisers who are located in the 12 S.C. Works regional offices of the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce.

The advisers will work one-on-one with the service members to literally translate the skills they learned in the military with businesses that want to hire veterans.

“The biggest struggle is on their resumes they can’t convert their military schooling into words a civilian employer will understand,” said Col. Ronald Taylor, the Guard’s service member and fmily care director. “We give them a chance to compete.”

South Carolina’s unemployment rate in December was 6.6 percent. In 2012 – the most recent year figures were available from the state unemployment agency – the jobless rate among all veterans in the state was 7.3 percent. The national unemployment rate among recent veterans is around 10 percent.

Retired Maj. Gen. Ronald Young, head of the Defense Department’s family and employer programs, said the Pentagon was impressed with the S.C. Guard’s work to move the jobless number among their veterans to 3.93 percent from 16 percent.

“I said, ‘South Carolina is doing great work,’” Young said during the announcement. “‘If I get some resourcing, I’m going to help them out.’”

Hitt said veteran employment not only boosts the state’s effort to become more military friendly, but also is a tool to attract prospective companies.

“One of our greatest selling points is our military,” Hitt said. “It’s one of our secret weapons.”

Operation Palmetto Employment

How veterans seeking employment can get more information about the new program:

Go online to operationpalmettoemployment.sc.gov

Call program manager Kyle Caldwell at (803) 299-1639.

Email Caldwell at kyle.r.caldwell2.mil@mail.mil.

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