Oklahoma EMSA Seeks Veterans For Employment
Nov. 20-- The skills Staff Sgt. Chris Dent was looking for in a paramedic he saw in several medics coming home from Afghanistan with the Oklahoma National Guard.
Dent serves as a medic in the 279th Infantry Regiment of the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. He had a job waiting for him -- back at EMSA in Tulsa -- but about one-third of the 3,000 returning soldiers did not.
Many of the medics returning already had the necessary training, experience and licenses, and Dent saw an opportunity to help veterans and expand EMSA's work force.
EMSA, Tulsa's ambulance service, is among several companies working to provide employment for returning veterans as employers more often recognize the skills and work ethic the guard, reserve and veterans bring to the work force.
The guard started the Employment Coordination Program in January, before the soldiers started to return from Afghanistan. It was a way to connect those soldiers to the employers across the state with opportunities for them. The program's website ( tulsaworld.com/guardjobs) and Facebook page ( tulsaworld.com/OKNGECP) tell veterans about job openings and job fairs and how to get help with interviews and resumes.
Lt. Col. Warren Griffis, director of the Employment Coordination Program, said the guard has helped place more than 250 soldiers since January.
"We're seeing people who may have gotten employment, but they're ready to increase their opportunities, step up and go to the next level," Griffis said.
Where the participation of soldiers has been steadily increasing, the employers who want to hire the veterans have been lining up, Griffis said.
The program at EMSA is still young, but Dent said he sees significant potential.
"A lot of them had just got in the military and done their training and been with (the guard) for a few months and we went on that deployment," Dent said. "So they don't have real job experience like some of the older people out there. This is a way to pull some of them in that got medical training from the Army, they have that licensure that we're looking for."
While the younger soldiers may not have that civilian work experience at a young age, their experience deployed overseas in a combat zone is the best training for a paramedic in a city.
Dent said the experience dealing with difficult and sometimes troubling situations removes several steps in the EMSA training process.
"They have that experience level from the deployment so they've seen that stuff, been exposed to a lot of that stuff," Dent said. "I had 18, 19-year-old soldiers doing stuff our paramedics do. Some of the stuff they did, our paramedics aren't even allowed to do."
Dent said EMSA has participated in some job fairs for veterans and hopes to participate in others that are upcoming, but the goal would be to actively seek those soldiers and veterans.
"This is more of a long-term thing," Dent said. "For the Guard, we don't have nearly as many medics in terms of the big force. So we have to go out and look."
The latest jobs numbers from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the unemployment rate for veterans was at 6.3 percent in October, lower than the national rate of 7.9 percent. However, the unemployment rate for veterans who fought in the most recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan was at 10 percent in October.
Both numbers for all veterans and Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are an improvement from last year and have been improving overall, but efforts to hire veterans as well as guard members and reservists should continue and expand.
"I think the word is out that people understand some of the desirable traits that the military instills," Griffis said. "It's things companies can't seem to teach in a matter of weeks and months when it comes to dependability, reliability, dedication. More companies and industries have said they want to seek out military folks."
Military-focused career fairs
--Dec. 1 at the weekend drill for Oklahoma National Guard soldiers, the Sand Springs Armed Forces Reserve Center. For more information, call 918-447-8202.
--Hiring our Heroes, Dec. 4, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at Expo Square, 4503 E. 21st St. Employers and job-seekers must register at tulsaworld.com/hoh.
For more job fairs and employment opportunities, visit the Employment Coordination Program's website accessible at tulsaworld.com/guardjobs.
Military employment by the numbers
3,000: Soldiers deployed last year to Kuwait and Afghanistan with the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
1,000: Soldiers who were unemployed or underemployed when they returned.
10 percent: October unemployment rate for veterans who served in the last decade in Iraq and Afghanistan.
6.3 percent: October unemployment rate for all veterans. (Overall U.S. rate in October was 7.9 percent.)
Sources: Oklahoma National Guard, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Jerry Wofford 918-581-8310
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