Hire a hero, hire a veteran.
That's what the state of California is saying.
The California Labor and Workforce Development Agency and Veteran Affairs Office has highlighted $1 million in job training funds that will help Fresno-area veterans who have been recently discharged.
The money will be split with $500,000 going to Pacific Gas & Electric Company and the State Center Community College District; the Fresno County Workforce Investment Board will also receive $500,000 to assist recently discharged veterans in the area.
The goal is to provide job training to our recently discharged veterans, who historically have a hard time re-joining the workforce. A study by ABT Associates found 18-percent of veterans are unemployed within one to three years of discharge.
For the many who never get back on their feet, this program could make all the difference in the world.
“These are people who have dedicated time out of their lives for us and it takes very little for us to make sure they make that transition back into civilian life as easy as possible,” said Victoria Bradshaw, secretary of the Labor and Workforce Development Agency.
It comes too late for Bill Montgomery but he says it’s still a good deal. The Korean War veteran, who is now seeking refuge at a downtown Fresno homeless shelter, has seen hard times.
"I got laid off at one place. They went under the table. I was back and forth all the time."
In 1953, Montgomery returned to the United States from his tour of duty. He was in his mid-twenties and he couldn't find steady work.
"A lot of jobs I went to see about, I got real irritated because they'd give some kind of silly answer [about not hiring me]," Montgomery said as he sat outside the Fresno Rescue Mission Thursday afternoon.
The veteran doesn’t blame his military service for the difficulties in his life but he says the time overseas and the struggle to assimilate into civilian life didn’t help.
But the times are changing.
Today, there are 2.2 million veterans living in the state of California; nearly 30,000 veterans return from duty and settle in California every year. The state is hoping Montgomery's painful past isn't repeated.
"If we don't take our returning veterans to heart and make sure they get into the civilian world, we're going to create problems for the future," said Bradshaw.
"These individuals have served our country and they have every right to come back and have an opportunity to compete for good-paying jobs," said Ophelia Basgal, vice president of civic partnerships and community initiatives for PG&E.
A press release from PG&E reads:
“The job-readiness training will help recently separated or separating veterans looking for good paying jobs, and PG&E in its growing need for skilled workers. The veterans’ program is part of PG&E’s new “PowerPathway,” a workforce development program aimed at recruiting and training skilled craft workers and technicians. Training will take place at Fresno City College and the City College of San Francisco.”
According to PG&E officials, the grant will provide training for approximately 80 veterans and could lead to employment with the power company. Organizers call it a “unique veterans’ education program that will train future PG&E employees. Salaries range from $43,000 to $80,000.
Of the company's 20,000 employees, Basgal says 40-percent will be eligible for retirement in the next four years so it needs qualified people now. "These are people who bring discipline and hard work and would be valued members of our team."
Though Montgomery won't be eligible for the program, he's optimistic for this generation's military force.
"They've got it a lot better than we had it," Montgomery said. “I’m glad.”
If you’d like to find out more about the program:
You can contact PG&E at: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also visit the California Labor & Workforce Development Agency web site: www.labor.ca.gov || (916) 327-9064
Click on the video link to watch Catherine Mylinh’s report.