Monday, February 20, 2012
BY JERRY WOFFORD, World Staff Writer
Service members leaving the military have a new resource in Oklahoma to help them with employment in the civilian world.
The Oklahoma National Guard is developing the Employment Coordination Program, which will connect service members and veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to employment opportunities in the state.
With more than 3,000 members of the Oklahoma National Guard in various stages of demobilization from their deployments to Afghanistan and Kuwait, Guard officials say the program will be important in providing them with stability.
About a third of the soldiers returning will not have jobs when they get back to the state, said Maj. Geoff Legler, spokesman for the Oklahoma National Guard.
Lt. Col. Warren Griffis started as the director of the Employment Coordination Program in January and has since worked to build the program from the ground up, all in preparation for the return of the Guard's 45th Infantry Brigade from Afghanistan.
"The way it started was our National Guard leadership felt a responsibility to our mobilized soldiers who were coming back who are unemployed or underemployed," Griffis said.
His office will work with soldiers to translate their military experience to the civilian world and pair them with employers who are actively seeking employees.
Strong support has been coming from state leaders, which has helped to quickly prepare the program for the soldiers' return, Griffis said.
Gov. Mary Fallin proclaimed in her State of the State address earlier this month that Oklahoma is prepared to help with whatever needs the 3,000 returning National Guard soldiers have, including employment.
"Some of the most unique skill sets are possessed by our military veterans and those returning with the armed services from overseas," Fallin said in her address. "These men and women deserve our help to find jobs and re-enter the workforce."
Fallin specifically mentioned the new initiative, accessible at tulsaworld.com/OKjobmatch, which matches job seekers with employers across the state.
There have been some challenges to easing the transition for soldiers, Griffis said. One has been getting licenses for soldiers who may have done certain jobs in the military that would require specific credentials in the civilian realm. He said some state officials have worked to ease that process for returning soldiers.
Another challenge will be to reach all of the Oklahoma National Guard soldiers once they return and then scatter to their homes across the state.
"The key is getting them linked up with the employers and not just dropping a resume in a website," Griffis said.
Other state agencies with a wider reach will help with the Employment Coordination Program's effort, Griffis said.
With Oklahoma's strong military support culture, finding employers to partner with the program has not been difficult, Griffis said.
"Those supportive employers are there, and they're anticipating the return of the employees. We're grateful for that," Griffis said. "It's been a tremendous outpouring of support."
Employment Coordination Program
Service members interested in the program are encouraged to call Lt. Col. Warren Griffis at 405-475-1997 for more information. The program's website is still in development, but information is posted to the program's Facebook page, accessible at tulsaworld.com/ONGECP.