A senior Pentagon official said there’s been progress in reducing the unemployment rate for Guard and Reserve veterans, but also told a House panel that more work needs to be done.
In testimony before the House Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity March 14 , Ronald G. Young, the family and employer programs and policy director within the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, discussed Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting that indicates higher unemployment rates for Guard and Reserve veterans, particularly junior enlisted, versus their active-duty counterparts.
Witnesses noted that some veterans need assistance with navigating the education, training and job opportunities available to them so they can better reintegrate in society and lead more productive and fulfilling lives.
Young cited his testimony to Congress last February, when he reported the status of forces listing overall general Guard and Reserve unemployment rates at 13.1 percent, and 23 percent for E-1 through E-4 ranks.
“The most recent status of forces survey went out to 113,000 Reserve component members at a 26 percent response rate and the figures we’re seeing now are 11 percent … for the general population of Guard and Reserve members,” Young said.
The junior enlisted unemployment rate has dropped from 23 percent to 18 percent, he added.
“The trail line is clearly in the right direction, however, the job is not complete,” Young said. “And even at those numbers, it is well above what the Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported for the veterans’ population across the country.”
According to Young, since the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress mandated the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program to include employment assistance and information for service members returning from deployments.
“We very aggressively started to leverage the 4,900 volunteers in ESGR [Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve] across the country that engage with employers every day to look for opportunities to help our Guard and Reserve members get jobs,” Young said.
He highlighted the success of the “Hero2Hired” program that helps connect reserve component members to jobs with military-friendly companies and offers career exploration tools, military-to-civilian skills translations, education and training resources, as well as a mobile application.
To date, Young said, more than 180,000 service members have visited the H2H website.
“It’s a comprehensive, career-readiness … program,” Young said, adding that the program is a high-tech, high-touch resource with 4,900 ESGR volunteers and additional employment transition coordinators added in August.
Partnerships through ESGR include the Society of Human Resource Managers, National Chamber of Commerce, 100,000 Jobs Mission Coalition, the Job Connection Education Program, and the Military Spouse Corporate Career Network.
Young, who also serves as ESGR’s executive director, said the volunteer network strives to educate employers and service members about their rights and responsibilities under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act.
Young noted that in fiscal year 2012, ESGR engaged with more than 161,000 employers in various activities and events and obtained nearly 55,000 statements of support from employers with staff members who serve in the Guard and Reserve.
“We educated nearly 500,000 of the service members themselves about their duties and responsibilities,” Young said.