New internship initiative provides employment opportunities for servicemembers returning to civilian life
Returning to civilian life after spending time in the armed forces can be difficult for veterans. The obstacles are many: navigating cultural differences between military and civilian life, getting reacquainted with family and friends, and managing the residual physical and psychological effects of combat, not to mention finding a job in a tough economic climate. King County is stepping up to help heroes in uniform with a new veterans internship initiative, called the Heroes Employment Reintegration Opportunity (HERO) Program. The program offers six-month paid internships to qualified veterans, along with support services tailored to men and women re-entering the civilian world.
"Many veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan struggle to re-enter the civilian world when their service to our country is over," said King County Executive Dow Constantine. "The HERO Program gives them a chance to translate the skills they learned in the military into private sector employment."
The HERO Program is open to any military veteran who meets King County Veteran's Program (KCVP) qualifications. After a competitive selection process, each participant will receive an hourly wage for 30 hours of work per week for six months. To better ensure their success, each intern will be matched to a King County employee who is also a veteran. They will also be provided with a comprehensive support plan, including connections to other community resources for veterans. During and after their six-month stint, HERO participants will receive one-on-one assistance in writing their resume and searching for jobs. They will also get help applying for any King County job openings they qualify for.
"I would first like to commend the Executive's Office and his staff for partnering with the County Council and for all their hard work in turning this idea into a reality for veterans in King County," said King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn, prime sponsor of the motion. "I want to see this veteran internship program become an important catalyst for helping find meaningful careers and employment for not only our returning heroes from Iraq and Afghanistan, but for all veterans."
"Returning veterans can face serious challenges finding jobs in this tough economy; they shouldn't," said Councilmember Bob Ferguson, who authored the Veterans and Human Services Levy that is providing funding for the HERO Program. "With this new internship program, veterans will benefit from expanded employment opportunities and training, and it will help our servicemen and women bridge their military training to on-the-job experience in the civilian world."
"Having high unemployment rates among our veteran population is grossly inconsistent with the values we all share in King County," Councilmember Julia Patterson said. "By providing opportunities to gain work experience and develop professional skills, this internship program will help veterans more effectively compete for jobs."
"The HERO internship program allows veterans to get that important foot in the door of transitioning to the next phase of their life and career," said Councilmember Larry Phillips. "King County will benefit from having veterans join our workforce, and veterans will gain work experience, mentoring, and support services."
King County has about 137,000 veterans, and that number is increasing due to the presence of military installations like Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM) in nearby Pierce County. According to the human resources command at JBLM, about 6,000 servicemembers transition out of the base each year. Many of these new veterans stay in the Puget Sound region, so programs are needed to provide civilian reintegration opportunities.
The first group of interns in the HERO Program are expected to start in January 2013. The program is projected to run through mid-2014, with about a dozen interns participating in each six-month session. Veterans who are interested in participating in the HERO Program can call 206-205-5859. The HERO Program is partially funded through the King County Veterans and Human Services Levy, which was re-authorized by voters in August 2011. For more information about the levy, visit www.kingcounty.gov/operations/DCHS/Services/Levy.aspx.