State money will ease transition to civilian life

A conference committee of House members and senators should leave $200,000 in the state budget for program to help exiting military personnel find jobs.

newsroom@islandpacket.comMay 30, 2014 

About 1,000 military service members face the bumpy transition to civilian life each year as they leave the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, the Marine Corps Recruit Depot on Parris Island and the Beaufort Naval Hospital.

While many of these men and woman have been tested on the battlefield, it's been years -- sometimes decades -- since they've written a resume or sat for a job interview. Many need help figuring out how to translate their military skills into good-paying civilian jobs.

While South Carolina's overall unemployment rate has dropped to just 5.3 percent, that of young veterans who served in the military since 9/11 is nearly 11 percent.

The situation will take on a greater sense of urgency soon as the military is set to be radically reduced after the end of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

That's why we're pleased that S.C. legislators are looking for ways to help. If a committee of state lawmakers agree, $200,000 in state dollars will flow to a program that aims to help exiting Marines find jobs here in the Lowcountry.

The program, called the Transitional Workforce Education Assistance Collaborative or TWEAC, was launched by the Lowcountry Economic Alliance and the city of Beaufort a couple of years ago to assist those leaving the military from Beaufort County's three bases.

The goals of the collaborative seem worthy of the proposed state investment. The hope is to keep these former military personnel and their expertise here in the Lowcountry by helping them with job searches and placement.

"We're concentrating on the labor pool we're now exporting," said Kim Statler, the alliance's executive director. "We want to keep them in the Lowcountry and Beaufort, if we can, as part of our economic engine."

It makes sense to give back to those who have served our nation faithfully. And it's a good move for our local economy too. For example, pilots leaving the air station could help grow the state's burgeoning aviation industry instead of taking their skills to another part of the country.

TWEAC has had some success in doing just that. A test project for the past year, the program has worked with more than 60 Marines to help them find civilian jobs. The program's offerings were recently expanded to include job help for military spouses because it is a family decision to stay or leave an area, Statler said Friday.

We agree with state funding for the program -- with one caveat. The alliance should work closely with other S.C. programs that have similar goals to ensure no duplication of services or waste of money. Programs should compliment each other, not compete for participants and prospective employers.

At least two similar programs exist. Gov. Nikki Haley's Operation Palmetto Employment helps find jobs for transitioning military service members of every branch, as well as veterans and spouses across the state. It seeks to be the umbrella group for all S.C. organizations that help military personnel transition.

And the S.C. National Guard has its own successful program that has decreased the unemployment rate among Guard members from 16 percent down to 3.4 percent as of this month. The program matches military skills to a civilian job and also educates employers on the benefits of hiring exiting military personnel.

We urge the Lowcountry Economic Alliance to reach out to these and other lesser-known organizations to ensure exiting military members have the best opportunity to find their dream job right here in Beaufort County.

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