With more veterans per capita than any other state — and in a time in which unemployment among those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces is a key national concern — Alaska will be spending a lot of time and effort helping ensure its vets have jobs in the coming years.
That would be the reasonable conclusion of anyone who reads over the state’s recently submitted Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Combined Plan.
The 263-page plan covers many in-need groups, of course, but none takes such precedence in the document as veterans, who make up nearly 10 percent of Alaskans, compared to less than 7 percent nationwide.
Here’s how The Last Frontier will be serving those who have served their nation:
1) Pre-apprenticeship programs. With help from a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, veterans and transitioning service members will get priority consideration for $2.9 million in funding for programs to help individuals prepare for jobs in high-demand careers fields, including healthcare, maritime occupations, construction, oil and gas, and mining.
2) Employment services for seniors. Not everyone can retire young — and not everyone wants to. That might be particularly true among veterans, who are well known both for hard work and a desire to be useful to their communities. That’s why Alaska will be making particular efforts to provide work-based training to veterans over the age of 55, offering opportunities to gain experience in a variety of nonprofit and public facilities, including schools, hospitals, day-care centers and senior centers, where they’ll work an average of 20 paid hours a week while developing familiarity and expertise in industries that can mutually benefit from their experience and work ethic.
3) Cooperation with the active duty military. Very few states have efforts underway to help active duty military members before they leave the service. In Alaska, though, the state’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development is working with military leaders from the state’s many active-duty military bases to provide training and employment opportunities to transitioning service members. The program includes military-approved apprenticeship and occupational training pathways to jobs in priority industries.
4) Recognition of employers who hire vets. Using public service announcements, listings on the government-run Alaska Job Services Network, and a specially designed logo, state leaders are working to ensure that employers are recognized for honoring America’s veterans by hiring them. State officials say they hope this inspires friendly competition among local and industry job creators, generating even greater momentum for veteran hiring.
5) Priority service and job updates. Under the provisions of state laws specifically enacted to lower the unemployment rate among vets, and following changes to state programs made as part of the state’s WIOA plan, veterans and their spouses are entitled to head-of-the-line privileges for training programs, resources and other services that are part of the state’s WIOA offerings. Meanwhile, the Alaska Labor Exchange System’s Veterans’ Virtual Recruiter ensures that veterans get a one-day head start on many job opening alerts.
6) Cross-training for outreach workers. Many Alaska Job Centers have veterans advocates on hand as part of the Jobs for Veterans state grant, but some do not. By cross-training staff members to both identify veterans and help point them in the right direction for additional services, Alaska is working to ensure that no vet slips through the cracks of the system.