Quinn, Councilmembers Unveil Veterans’ Job Assistance Program
City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, Small Business Committee Chair Councilmember Diana Reyna and Veterans Committee Chair Councilmember Mathieu Eugene on May 11 announced a partnership with Seedco, a non-profit organization that advances economic opportunities for people and communities, and the city’s Workforce1 Career Centers to assist returning veterans with job placement and better prepare them to enter the workforce. The public/private partnership program, Veterans Employment Transition Education Reintegration and Network Services (VETERANS), connects veterans to the civilian job market, prepares them for the job search and helps place them into the workforce.
The speaker and councilmembers also announced that through the public private partnership initiative they have organized a number of major corporations, including TD Bank, Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, Alcoa and Wells Fargo, to forge connections with Seedco and WorkForce1 so that when jobs become available at these companies they can more easily work to connect qualified veterans with those opportunities. Seedco President and CEO Barbara Dwyer Gunn, Deputy Commissioner for the Department of Small Business Services (SBS) Angie Kamath, Commissioner for the Mayor’s Office of Veteran’s Affairs Terrance C. Holiday, U.S. veteran Frank Vazquez, who is currently participating in the VETERANS program, and representatives of veterans groups, including Viet Nam Veterans of America, Queens Chapter 32 President Pat Toro Jr. and Veterans Across America Program Manager Glen Witt, joined Quinn in the announcement.
“I look forward to helping Seedco in their determination to bring their expertise to the veterans’ community. I also commend Speaker Quinn in bringing this program to the veterans’ door front,” Toro said.
“We owe our veterans all the respect and gratitude in the world, as their service to the nation has been wonderful. As they thankfully return home, the most important thing that government can do is provide for their health and well-being. The partnership with Seedco for workforce development training and placement supports this goal and I congratulate Speaker Quinn and Councilmembers Reyna and Eugene for their tireless efforts,” Councilmember Karen Koslowitz declared.
Veterans Across America would like to take the opportunity to thank Speaker Quinn and the council, as well as Seedco and SBS, for their outstanding efforts in assisting New York City veterans find gainful and meaningful employment,” Witt said. “In today’s economic environment it is critical that we have such strong support for New York’s unemployed and underemployed veteran community.”
In New York City, 17,300 veterans are currently unemployed, an increase of 4,700 from last year. Unemployment among New York state veterans recently home from Iraq and Afghanistan is close to 15 percent, and in the last year alone, unemployment among veterans statewide increased by more than 20,500. There are approximately 22 million veterans of a U.S military branch; of those, about one in 10 veterans served post 9/11 and nearly two thirds are currently under the age of 35. The national veterans’ unemployment rate is 10 percent; the unemployment rate for veterans ages 18 to 24 is approximately 21 percent.
“Far too many of our servicemen and women risk their lives to protecting our country, only to find themselves unable to get a job when they return home,” Quinn said. “And with the scheduled Afghanistan draw down only a few months away, New York City needs to be prepared to assist our returning heroes. Serving in the military provides an invaluable set of skills that many employers are looking for, but [veterans] often have difficulty translating their work experience into civilian terms. Through the VETERANS program we’ll ease their transition into civilian life by offering workforce development and job search training, and help connect employers to the qualified candidates. I’d like to thank Seedco, SBS, and the diverse network of companies and veterans’ groups dedicated to making this program successful.”
“Returning servicemen and women in New York City can be confident that our career counselors—themselves veterans—stand ready to help them achieve their goals as they embark on a new chapter in their lives,” Gunn said. “Seedco looks forward to working with the city council, the Department of Small Business Services and employers in the VETERANS partnership.”
The council Committee on Small Business and the Committee on Veterans held a joint hearing later on May 11 to examine causes of high unemployment among veterans and other actions the city is taking to help reduce the high rates of unemployment among veterans. Committee members also explored the programs and services available to veterans interested in starting a small business, the business community’s treatment of veterans who are employees and the incentives available to employers to encourage veteran hiring. Reyna and Eugene heard testimony by a number of organization heads as well as former veterans, now civilians, about the concerns of veterans attempting to return to or enter the civilian job market. Many of the speakers requested a better understanding from the Bloomberg mayoral administration for veterans who are interested in starting their own businesses. They expressed their concern for the lack of interest from the Bloomberg administration regarding their need to have access to vending permits, toward which vets seem to gravitate.
One speaker from Veterans Across America called on the council to help coordinate services so veterans had a better chance to succeed in their job search. A program to match the skill sets of veterans to available jobs was also suggested.
During the hearing, the committee members voted to expand the veterans’ facility in St. Albans Queens to create a VA hospital at the location. Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, when informed about the vote, commented, “I am pleased to hear that. We will finally be able to offer better services to our veterans.”
Reyna and Eugene remained for almost another half hour after the last speaker had given testimony to talk with anyone who needed clarification about the hearing and heed the concerns of the attendees, many who were returning veterans.