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Oakland County

November 7, 2012

Proposed internships could help veterans find employment

By Chris Jackett
C & G Staff Writer

OAKLAND COUNTY — Military veterans will receive some help getting reintegrated into the workplace, if the Oakland County Board of Commissioners has anything to say about it.

The board voted 25-0 Nov. 1 to create a Hire Our Heroes veteran internship program within 45 days. The decision calls for the county administration, departments and commission to work together and “develop a plan and to provide information about the projected costs.”

Introduced by Commissioners David Woodward, D-Royal Oak, and Jim Runestad, R-White Lake, the proposed program will have five primary goals and specific ways to achieve them determined before the end of the calendar year.

The program will look to “assist veterans with the transition to the civilian workforce; build veterans’ skills and confidence; provide the opportunity to develop on-the-job experience and training for a wide variety of careers in county government and in the civilian workforce; support Oakland County departments and agencies in developing an understanding of the skills and abilities that returning veterans offer to the government workforce” and to “honor the service of veterans.”

“I think it’s a recognition, as a board and a county, of understanding veterans’ needs,” Woodward said. “Matching people with the skill set they’ve used in active duty, it’s just something we can do and has been done very successfully across the country.”

Similar programs exist in California, Virginia and two areas of Washington.

“The transition from service to civilian life can be very stressful at times,” Woodward said. “As Iraq ended and with Afghanistan winding down, we’re going to see a more rapid return of men and women. This is just a very important step in addressing the unemployment numbers.”

Officials said the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics reports “unemployment among active-duty Gulf War-era veterans” was 12.1 percent, while the country’s overall unemployment rate is 8 percent. Additionally, “young male veterans ages 18-24, who served during the Gulf War Era II,” have an unemployment rate of 29.1 percent.

“Due to the Afghanistan drawdown, a huge new wave of veterans are posed to return to this sluggish market,” Runestad said via email. “The president has estimated that 1 million people will return to civilian life over the next five years. It is crucial that we address their employment prospects to ease this transition locally.”

Woodward said the county’s Veterans Services and Human Resources departments would be important pieces in the development of the program.

“It has to be a coordination (of) existing veteran services and work force development,” Woodward said. “We’ve got a great Human Resources division that’s going to help shape what this looks like. We’re able to do something that can help support people’s lives. It’s a win-win across the board.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Chris Jackett at cjackett@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1110.