With Veterans Day in November, the whole country has a chance to salute our veterans for their service. At the Suncoast Workforce, we make it a daily priority to serve our veterans with their employment needs.
Suncoast Workforce has five staff members, all veterans, exclusively designated and trained to deal with the unique experiences and challenges facing service members as they transition to civilian employment. In each of its career centers in Bradenton, Sarasota and Venice, Suncoast Workforce has a Disabled Veterans Outreach Program specialist (DVOP). The DVOP provides targeted services such as orientations, career guidance, counseling and job development to aid those veterans with disabilities or those with barriers, such as homelessness or arrest records.
In the past six months, nearly 3,000 veterans in Manatee and Sarasota counties have received services from Suncoast Workforce's DVOPs.
The other half of the veterans team at the Suncoast Workforce are Local Veterans Employment Representatives (LVER). Two LVERs are assigned to promote employment opportunities for veterans with employers in our area. They do this by meeting with employers and referring qualified veterans to job openings, participating in hiring events and doing outreach to employers and organizations like the Manatee Chamber of Commerce. From January through July 2013, more than 500 veterans gained employment in our region through the efforts of the Suncoast Workforce veterans staff.
The LVER staff also aid employers in utilizing the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC), which provides incentives to employers ranging from $2,400 to $9,600 for hiring unemployed or service-connected disabled veterans.
Suncoast Workforce staff cannot do it alone, so they rely on a network of connected veteran service providers in order to refer veter
ans to organizations that can assist. Recently, Suncoast Workforce partnered with Goodwill Manasota on a Veterans and Their Families Jobs and Services Fair through The Patterson Foundation's Legacy of Valor initiative (http://www.freedompassiton.org/).
More than 40 service organizations such as Turning Points, the Salvation Army and All Faiths Food Bank participated to inform veterans about programs available to them. Additionally, more than 40 employers such as Air Products, Bealls and Manatee County Government came with job opportunities. More than 200 veterans and their family members attended. For businesses wanting to participate, Suncoast Workforce will sponsor a second event as part of the Legacy of Valor on February 7, 2014 at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota. To learn more, visit www.suncoastworkforce.org.
Mary Helen Kress, president and CEO of Suncoast Workforce, writes about employment issues affecting our commmunities. Suncoast Workforce is a not-for-profit corporation serving Manatee and Sarasota Counties.