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State Trying To Connect Veterans With Work Using Existing Skills

Nov 11, 2015

Communities around the state are holding events to honor veterans. 

Ohio Public Radio's Andy Chow looks at what the state is doing to help military members in the long term.

Bagpipes blare and dozens of people stand and applaud as members of the military are ushered into a ceremony to honor their service. The ceremony is inside COTA Headquarters, the busing service for Columbus.

Those cheering the veterans being honored aren’t just friends and family but also coworkers. COTA makes it a priority to hire people who served in the military and to date about 10% of its workforce are veterans.

COTA CEO Curtis Stitt says there’s a great benefit to hiring a vet.

“They understand the value of teamwork. They understand what a mission is. They understand what completing missions is all about. And goalsetting and achieving these goals,” said Stitt.

That’s the mindset the state says it wants more and more companies to take. So far, more than 1,200 businesses list themselves as veteran-friendly when it comes to hiring practices.

State Veteran Services Director Chip Tansill points to OhioMeansJobs.com as a tool to connect with those companies. Employers can link to the state’s Veterans Support Center through the site. And there’s a section dedicated to job-seeking veterans, which includes a resource that translates military skills into job opportunities.

Going beyond those concrete skills, Tansill says veterans know how to bring so much more to the table.

“It’s how to lead people. How to manage, how to organize, how to be responsible for things, how to—in your own mind—process things quickly and rapidly,” Tansill said.

Getting men and women of the military hired is a priority in Ohio. In honor of Veterans Day, November has been designated as Hire a Veteran Month.

Tansill, a colonel in the U.S. Army, says vets are looking for a sense of purpose and community when they return from duty. Something that a job provides that goes beyond just the financial benefits.

“When people come home from the military, they’re used to being a very tightknit group, someone always has their back, someone is always looking out for them. And when they come home they still have family that’s looking out for them but it’s a much smaller group and they’re working very hard to adjust back to civilian life cause it is a huge difference,” said Tansill.

Back at COTA Headquarters, Cynthia Elkins belts the national anthem as the veterans salute the flag they took an oath to protect. This includes Central Ohio Congressman Steve Stivers who has served in the Ohio Army National Guard for more than 30 years.

Stivers has used part of his time in office to work on bills that help service women and men. That includes a bill that also connects vets with work.

“If you don’t have a job, you don’t have hope. Not only can you not pay your bills and does it create an economic disaster for people who don’t have a job, it also just wears you down and makes everything a crisis,” said Stivers.

Stivers is also working on legislation that would connect veterans with therapy dogs.

“Studies by the Kaiser foundation show that if you have a therapy dog, not only do you have lower instances of suicide, better overall mental health, but your interactions with humans get better as a result of your interactions with this therapy dog.”

There are about 900,000 members of the military living in the state, giving Ohio the sixth largest veteran population in the country.

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