COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) -As we celebrate our military heroes on this Veterans Day, one Midlands veteran is reminding employers not to count them out when looking for new hires.
The South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce (SCDEW) is reporting that the unemployment rate for veterans in our state has been on the decline over the last couple of few years. The veteran unemployment rate was at 5% in 2016. Last year, it was down to 3.3%.
Despite this improvement, thousands of vets in our state are still without work.
Paul Tant of Chester enlisted in the Army in 1988 and served for two years. Even after training as a medical specialist at the U.S. Army Academy of Health Sciences, and continuing his medical training as a civilian, Tant says he’s struggled to hold down a job ever since being discharged from the military.
He says he briefly worked as an EMT, but overtime has become discouraged that his age and veteran status may be working against him.
“It’s very frustrating. I’ve served my country. I’ve served my community. I have more than enough qualifications, but, it’s very frustrating,” Tant said.
In 2018, the University of South Carolina School of Law opened a Veterans Legal Clinic, which offers its services free of charge to qualifying veterans. The director, Bennett Gore, says the first step is making sure veterans are accessing all of the assistance available to them.
“If you’re a veteran, don’t be afraid to access the benefits you’re entitled to at the VA. You earned them through service to your country and they have a lot to offer. They’re not getting the benefits they need from the VA or the treatment they need from the VA and that’s causing them to be unemployable… So, what we’re trying to do is take one issue off the table to help them become employable,” Gore said.
Some of these benefits may even help to provide some of the necessary skillsets needed for certain jobs, “Whether it be a compensated work-therapy program, where they can learn a new job; whether it be vocational rehab, where they can learn a new job or go back to school for a new job and so our goal, our ultimate goal is to get them back in the workforce, get them back to being productive members of society through getting their access to the VA and removing these legal stumbling blocks,” Gore said.
The SCDEW places various Veteran Employment Representatives throughout the state, who actively work to inform employers about the need for employment opportunities for veterans.
“One of the things that we veterans bring to the workplace is we’re well-trained. We can adapt easily. Regardless of what the job is – even though we, say, may have no experience in that job – we are very trainable. Our training has made us pretty much adaptable to just about any situation," Tant said.
The SCDEW also offers resume help so that veterans can better translate their skills into the skills needed for civilian jobs.
For more details on the resources available, visit: https://dew.sc.gov/individuals/veterans-services