As Pennsylvania celebrates the nation's service members this Veterans Day, the veterans themselves continue to deal with an unemployment rate higher than the civilian average.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for veterans who've served in the past ten years is 12.1%, as compared with the national average of 9.0%.
One government agency is launching a new campaign to help close that gap. The little-known Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), a bureau within the Department of Defense, recently kicked off its Employment Initiative Program.
The program pairs vets with potential employers, as ESGR works with the veterans individually to polish their résumés and their interview skills.
Denise Gross, ESGR's Pennsylvania Comittee Chair, said that the veterans of the Commonwealth face the same problems as many others when they return to the civilian workforce.
"Just like any other state, we do have our fair share of soldiers that are returning that are either unemployed or underemployed," said Gross.
In addition to the Employment Initiative Program, ESGR holds job fairs that connect employers with Guard and Reserve veterans. Gross said that one such fair, held recently in Williamsport, alerted veterans to opportunities within Pennsylvania's rapidly expanding Marcellus Shale natural gas industry.
She said it's a win-win for employers to open their doors to those who've served the nation.
"These veterans bring the integrity, the global perspective, [and] proven leadership," said Gross. "They're drug-free. They're on time. They're very reliable employees that can be brought into the civilian workforce."
ESGR is now accepting applications for the Freedom Award, a national prize that recognizes employers who give "exceptional support" to veterans of the Guard and Reserve. The Department of Defense bestows the award on about ten companies nationwide each year. Guard and Reserve veterans who wish to nominate their employer for the Freedom Award should visit its website. The application deadline is January 16.