SAN DIEGO - When a motivated group of service members shoots for the stars, sometimes they can exceed even their own lofty goals. Three years ago, when California National Guard leadership set their goals for the new Work for Warriors program, they asked their troops to achieve something that apparently could not be done: find 1,000 jobs for Cal Guard members in the next five years.
“That was a totally unrealistic goal — 1,000 people — given the unemployment rate, given the state of the economy, given the other problems that we faced,” Maj. Gen. David S. Baldwin, the adjutant general of the Cal Guard, said March 14, 2015. “But with the hard work of the Soldiers and Airmen and civilians that are on our team, and through the partnerships we've developed, we have now placed over 4,000 Soldiers and Airmen.”
Baldwin was speaking aboard the USS Midway to a group of Work for Warriors' employer-partners, representatives from several military branches and distinguished guests including Speaker of the State Assembly Toni Atkins. The event marked three successful years for the employment initiative and recognized the invaluable support of the Cal Guard's partners in the private sector and the state government.
Some of the California National Guard's employer-partners tour the USS Midway during the third anniversary celebration for the Cal Guard's Work for Warriors employment initiative March 14, 2015. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from California National Guard photo by USAF Master Sgt. Julie Avey)
“This partnership between the Assembly and the California National Guard is an example of the best of what government can do when we truly collaborate,” said Atkins, whose district includes the USS Midway Museum. “The community benefits, the economy benefits and thankfully, most of all, our veterans benefit.
“The assembly is not only proud but determined to continue our partnership with the California National Guard on Work for Warriors.”
Work for Warriors was founded in March 2012 with funding from the State Assembly to assist Cal Guard members. It has been so successful, however, that it has since secured $1 million in funding from the U.S. Congress, enabling Work for Warriors to expand its services to include all of California's reserve-component members, military spouses, post-9/11 veterans and families of fallen troops.
By working directly with both job candidates and employers to find a perfect match, Work for Warriors has placed 4,000 people in new jobs at a cost of roughly $750 per job found — that's about 1/10th the cost of other government-run veteran jobs programs. Work for Warriors is now being used as a model for programs in other states and has been recognized by the National Guard Bureau as its model for reducing unemployment.
“The value a Guard member brings to [our company] goes beyond the commitment they bring to an employer, as with them comes their civilian work history,” said Lloyd D. Songne Jr., director of military programs for Volt Information Sciences Inc. “By getting to understand Volt better, [the Work for Warriors team] identifies candidates that will excel and even exceed at the work they are hired to do.
“We know that Guard members are going to represent Volt with our customers in a manner that is hard to match.”
The third anniversary event aboard the Midway included distinguished guests Capt. Mark Howell, commander of the Navy Region Southwest Reserve Component Command; and Brig. Gen. John C. Flournoy Jr., commander of the active-component's 4th Air Force, who attended to show their support for the program, which will soon begin serving active-component members as well. The next step in Work for Warriors' evolution is to reach out to members who will soon separate from active duty, to help ensure a seamless transition to civilian employment.
“We owe a major debt to the men and the women who have served our country, and making sure we honor that debt is not just our job as policymakers — it's our obligation, all of us, as citizens,” Atkins said. “One of the ways we can do that is by helping veterans find employment when they return home.”
Work for Warriors now has more than 250 corporate partners that recognize the value in hiring service members and veterans. In addition to Volt, which has hired 73 employees through Work for Warriors, the Cal Guard recognized 14 other employers March 14, 2015 for their commitment to the program, including the California Conservation Corps, which has hired 143 Cal Guard members; Allied Barton Security Services, which has hired 133; and U.S. Vets, which has hired 118.
Employers often remark that veterans and reserve component members are entrepreneurial, easily grasp advanced technical training, are highly resilient and exhibit a strong organizational commitment. Service members also have a great variety of cross-cultural experience, are results-driven and are efficient with their time.
“Every California business needs to be aware of this program, not just because Guard members and veterans make good employees,” Atkins added, “[but because Work for Warriors is] making it easier for Guard members to fulfill their duties to the public.”
Reducing unemployment among National Guard members is critically important to maintaining the Guard's state of readiness, she said, as recent events in our state have shown. Guard members are often called upon to provide assistance during natural disasters and times of emergency, and they must be able to deploy on short notice for an undetermined period of time.
“[Employed] Guard members can leave home and know that their family will be economically secure. That doesn't just protect the Guard member; that protects the public as well,” she said. “With Work for Warriors, we are fulfilling our duty to veterans and making it easier for Guard members to fulfill their duties to the public.”
By Brandon Honig, California National Guard
Provided through DVIDS
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