By Sherrod Brown
Ohio’s heroes who fought for our country shouldn’t have to fight for a job when they return home. Unfortunately, many do. And it’s not right.
Recently, at the SuperJobs Center in Cincinnati, I met Marianne Linardos, a Hamilton native and a Navy veteran who struggled to find full-time employment after returning from serving our nation in the military. Following eight years of unsuccessful job searching, Linardos took things into her own hands — quite literally. She made herself a sign that read, “Hire Me” and walked through the streets of her hometown, with the hopes that a potential employer would see the sign and offer her an opportunity to prove that the skills she developed while serving could be translated into a civilian job.
Unfortunately, Marianne’s struggle to find work is not unique. In fact, after spending a week traveling throughout Ohio, I met with veterans who spent months and in some cases like Marianne’s – years – looking for work after returning home to their communities.
That’s because in our state, the unemployment rate among Iraq-Afghanistan era veterans is 13.9 percent — almost twice Ohio’s unemployment rate. And the number of veterans across the country receiving unemployment benefits has more than doubled since 2002.
Just as we invest in and train our servicemembers while they serve, we should continue to do so when they return to their communities, hang up their uniforms, and embark on the next phase of their lives.
I’ve held many hearings across the state where we have discussed how veterans could fill in the skills gap that so many emerging industries are concerned about – like advanced manufacturing. While the economy is beginning to show signs of recovery, many industries are facing a shortage of qualified workers. Our veterans have technical and leadership skills that easily translate to the workforce. Iraq-Afghanistan era veterans combine technical mastery with proven leadership skills that are extremely valuable to the workforce.
That’s why I’m fighting to pass the Troop Talent Act of 2013. This bill would ensure servicemembers are updated throughout their military careers about how their specialized military training can lead to a credentialed or licensed job back home. Our servicemembers would get a head start on their careers, easing their transition from military service back to civilian life.
The Troop Talent Act would also expand government programs that match veterans with credentialed positions in high-growth occupations.
It’s also important to reward the businesses who put our unemployed veterans back to work. That’s why I support more funding for programs through the VOW to Hire Heroes Act — which gives businesses a tax break when they hire veterans.
Our servicemembers and veterans deserve our nation’s full support. They deserve elected officials who are willing to put partisan battles aside to ensure that returning veterans have jobs to ease their transition into civilian life.
In previous generations, Ohio veterans returned to their hometowns and started small businesses or became firefighters, astronauts, factory workers, or police officers. Half a dozen became President of the United States. For Ohio’s returning veterans today, we have much work to do to ease their transition into civilian life. The Troop Talent Act of 2013 is a great first step. Putting veterans to work will create the stronger economy and better communities we all want.
Sherrod Brown is a United States Senator from Ohio.