With all US troops set to be withdrawn from Afghanistan by the end of this year and the pending reduction-in-force mandated for all service branches, South Carolina is bracing itself for an influx of service members looking to enter its civilian workforce. Home to 8 military installations and large National Guard and reserve contingents, the state expects approximately 300-400 active-duty service members from its bases to look for civilian employment annually over the next few years; an additional 200 to 300 are anticipated to relocate from bases outside of the state.
Anticipating the influx, Gov. Nikki Haley has expanded a program that was created by the South Carolina National Guard to include active duty service members. Operation Palmetto Employment (OPE) builds upon the success of the Guard’s Service Member and Family Care Programs in providing employment opportunities for returning Guard members. That program provides a variety of support to returning troops to aid their transition to the civilian workforce. According to Col. Ronald Taylor who commands the Service Member and Family Care Programs, they currently place about 80 service members a month, most of whom are returning Guard members who will maintain part-time status as soldiers or airmen. The program offers these men and women resume writing classes, tips on dressing for success, mock interviews and information on what to expect regarding salaries.
Operation Palmetto Employment coordinates all public and private efforts in South Carolina to match veterans with employers. Advisers are stationed at each of the 12 S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce offices, working one-on-one with service members to help them translate their military skills into language civilian employers can understand. The program also aims to educate employers about the benefits of hiring veterans. “By definition, they are the top one-third of the population,” said Col. Brian Hilferty of U.S. Army Central.
“Veterans are… a workforce that deserves to have the attention.” Gov. Nikki Haley
Not only is retaining veterans in the state the right thing to do, it makes economic sense for the state as well. South Carolina has about 56,000 retired military personnel living within its borders, pumping an estimated $1.3 billion into the state’s economy annually. Retaining veterans helps South Carolina in its recruiting efforts to bring companies to the state. “They are a workforce I don’t want to lose,” said Gov. Haley. “[Veterans] are a selling point when I recruit companies to this state, and they are a workforce that deserves to have the attention.”
The Amazon.com distribution center in Lexington County and the Boeing manufacturing facility in North Charleston are two of the largest companies that have partnered with OPE to hire South Carolina veterans. Kelly Cheesenan, the spokeswoman from Amazon’s Seattle headquarters, describes veterans as “…skilled at working as a team and accomplishing their missions as a group…they are leaders who take action.”
Boeing’s spokeswoman, Candy Eslinger wrote “[Veterans] create value in our company by demonstrating leadership, excellence and a collaborative approach. Boeing hires veterans because they bring values, skills and perspective uniquely cultivated through their experience in the military.”
Industries popular with returning South Carolina veterans include security, law enforcement, manufacturing, information technologies, construction, transportation, distribution and the medical field.
Employers who want to hire veterans and Post -9/11 veterans looking for work should visit the OPE website for details.
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