By Kevin Boozer
NEWBERRY — At the April Newberry County Workforce Development Council meeting, community educators and business leaders as well as vocational counselors learned about Operation Palmetto Employment, a resource to help veterans find meaningful employment and earn living wages.
Kyle Caldwell spoke with Operation Palmetto Employment, a combined initiative with the Department of Employment and Workforce and programs funded by the Workforce Act (WIA).
The veteran’s hiring initiative first enacted in 2011 has evolved in 2014 to include efforts to bring players together to help members of the military community find meaningful employment.
Including business relation service specialists, the program connects teams of veteran representatives to veterans and potential employers. There are 44 people in the field to network and liaison on behalf of veterans.
However, there are changes to the program because as of April 10 veteran employment representatives speak only to employers now, not to veterans.
Caldwell said the agency he works for is trying to make sure South Carolina does not miss the boat at attracting many of the highly skilled, disciplined workers who will be coming into the state.
“If employers are looking for someone with soft skills for people to show up and do their jobs, then business HR representatives and leaders would do well to consider veterans,” Caldwell said. “We are working to create a place where at one place, one person with one talent can be matched with a team. Veterans age 18-24 face a higher rate of unemployment.”
Currently there are around 23,000 unemployed veterans in South Carolina. But with eight military bases for five branches of the service and with war winding down in Afghanistan, more troops will be coming back home looking for work. Around 200 guard members could be back as early as next month.
“Now we have a hub to assist each military community to talk within the community and assist one another, not only veterans but spouses of veterans in finding employment,” Caldwell said.
Caldwell cited a study by Clemson and the University of South Carolina that said 10 percent of the jobs in the next 20 years will be filled with someone with a high school diploma, 20 percent by people with a four-year college degree and 70 percent will be filled with people trained for a technical skill or skills.
One goal is showing people how a military skill set transfers into a civilian position. These small group teams of people working to educate employers about the benefits of hiring veterans are like the fire teams in the military are five-person cohesive units who take on a particular task. These OPE groups are like employment fire teams for veterans with the goal being finding them jobs.
Teresa Power, director of economic development for Newberry Count, spoke about the need to bring talent sets to employers and prospects who would be on time, have a good work ethic and work hard — people like veterans.
She talked about programming being added to Piedmont Tech and the need for maintenance technicians, maintenance supervisors and how 35 percent of all jobs in the county are in manufacturing.
The speculative building at the Mid-Carolina Commerce Park is nearing completion. She said there had been some industry looking at tin.
A job fair will be held June 5 at Piedmont Tech.
Kevin Boozer can be reached at 803-276-0625 ext. 109.