"If you can save a life in Afghanistan, you can save a life in an ambulance in Wyoming. If you can oversee millions of dollars of assets in Iraq, you can help a business balance its books here at home," President Obama said in August when announcing his veteran jobs initiative.
The president is absolutely right, the skills and experiences learned in the military by service members are assets that can benefit the civilian job market in a variety of ways. But still, the average unemployment rate for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans so far in 2011 still sits at an unacceptable 12.1 percent. Confusion over how to translate those military skills into descriptions civilian employers understand is part of the problem, as are misperceptions of who modern veterans are in the national consciousness.
The reality is that vets are hardworking, technologically savvy leaders. This is something that forward-looking companies like Southwest Airlines, Bechtel and Tesla already understand. They are setting a trend by committing to hiring new veterans, strengthening their ranks for decades to come.
Since we can't rely on Washington alone to solve this veteran unemployment problem, we're hitting the road, hosting Smart Job Fairs across the country. This is a part of our Clinton Global Initiative America jobs partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. And San Francisco will host the first of these jobs fairs on Thursday, coinciding with Fleet Week.
This Smart Job Fair couldn't come at a more crucial time for northern California vets. Local organizations, like Swords to Plowshares, Project Hired, the Salvation Army, Goodwill Industries and the Farmer-Veteran Coalition, will be there as well -- showing Bay Area vets that they've got their back. This shows tremendous progress towards San Francisco's goal to become "the most vet-friendly city in the country," something former Mayor Gavin Newsom told me personally last year.
Veterans will attend the Smart Job Fair free of charge (they can register here) and will have access to top-of-the-line resources like resume reviews and interview skills workshops. They'll also receive a certificate for business apparel to assist in their job hunt (enough for a free suit!). And employers will learn ways they can help bridge the military-civilian divide and hire the New Greatest Generation.
Events like these show what can happen when the private sector, government and nonprofits come together to get things done. More vets in the workplace means a stronger, more adaptable workforce -- and a stronger, more adaptable America.
A Golden Gate to a new era, starting in San Francisco.
Cross-posted at IAVA.org