CLEVELAND — There are more than 800 different jobs across all branches of the U.S. Military, but what happens when our service members leave active duty and return home?
Help Wanted Ohio is News 5's commitment to looking into workforce challenges and success in Northeast Ohio.
There is a new report that focuses on the untapped potential of our veterans. It is from Team NEO: Northeast Ohio’s economic development partner of JobsOhio.
"I was stationed in South Korea, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan," said Brandon Thompson while pointing to a world map hanging in a hallway at the Veteran and Military Resource Center at Cleveland State University.
Thompson served eight years with the U.S. Air Force. His job was with the Air Force Security Forces.
"When our students come here, they put a pin in their favorite place to be stationed," he said.
Thompson, 35, now serves as the director of the Veteran Student Services Program at Cleveland State University, helping vets map out their next chapter.
"This is the perfect place for you to come as a veteran," he said.
Thompson should know; he came to CSU to get his bachelor’s and master’s degrees before taking over the job as director.
CSU is ranked 20th in the nation on the Military Times Best for Vets College list.
"The big part is developing that community, that sense of belonging," said Thompson "If people feel like they belong somewhere, they can succeed there."
It is exactly what's outlined in Team NEO's report. Unemployment isn't the problem for working-age veterans. Their workforce participation rate is high and so is their skill level. It is the transition to civilian work that can lead to one in three vets being underemployed.
"A lot of it really comes back to culture and the way employers think about hiring, and the way employers think about skill transferability," said Jacob Duritsky with Team NEO.
The report is geared toward employers but also contains helpful resources for veterans.
Strong veteran employment is important to Northeast Ohio: home to more vets than any other region in the state and to a variety of military installations, veteran support services, and research facilities. The defense sector is big here and economic leaders want to strengthen and grow it.
"And we're thinking about people who are coming back and leveraging them as a new asset in our labor force," said Duritsky.
"You do not need to be a veteran to support veterans," said Thompson.
He says solutions start with just talking with veterans about their experience in service and reentering civilian life.
He said he felt different after leaving service.
"Absolutely, I didn't really know what to do with myself," he explained.
Thompson said his dad, also veteran, told him it would take a couple of years.
"And, he was absolutely right," he said.
Thompson said that's why a veteran-focused center, like the one at CSU, is so important.
"We've got the whole support structure here.”
Veterans can get the support they need while achieving degrees with the benefits they've earned.
"We don't want veterans to take any job," he said. "Let's get them out the door and into higher-quality jobs."
Team NEO and Thompson said it is essential employers know this veteran population is here.
"They're highly skilled and they're ready to help you reach your goals," said Thompson.
He said the average age for a student veteran at CSU is about 27, but they have vets in their 70s too.
Ohio Means Job gives priority of service to veterans, and Ohio employers who designate themselves as military-friendly will have veteran resumes sent to the top of their options.
The veteran report is a supplement to Team NEO's talent work. Later this summer, they plan to update the women and minority reports, as well.
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