1,500 veterans hired through new Missouri program

CAPE GIRARDEAU (AP) — The jobless rate for veterans remains high, but a Missouri program is working to help.

The program known as Show-Me Heroes launched in 2010. The Southeast Missourian reports that 1,500 veterans have been hired, and 1,834 companies have agreed to participate in the program.

Businesses taking part in Show-Me Heroes work with veterans’ representatives with the Missouri Career Center. When a veteran applies with one of the firms, the employer agrees to give him or her an interview.

The unemployment rate for veterans who served in active duty after the 2001 terrorist attacks was 12.1 percent as of last year, about one-third higher than the overall jobless rate, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. And for male veterans ages 18 to 24, the unemployment rate was 29.1 percent, compared to 17.6 percent for young male nonveterans.

One difficulty some veterans encounter is that their military training doesn’t always translate to civilian life, said Ed Bagby, veterans representative at the Missouri Career Center. Even a military mechanic or truck driver still must go to school to get civilian certification.

“The ones who really have a difficult time are those in the infantry training program,” Bagby said.

“Those skills don’t convert into anything that can be used in civilian life.”

Show-Me Heroes helped Justin Stuhr find a job at Ole Hickory Pits, a Cape Girardeau welding shop.

The heat in the shop is no problem for Stuhr, who said he developed a tolerance while spending 15 months with the Army in Iraq.

Once back home and out of the military, he didn’t want to go to school.

“I worked a few jobs here and there, but they couldn’t offer me what I needed — benefits and decent pay,” Stuhr said.

Ole Hickory Pits has hired eight veterans since the program began, and three currently work there, said Daniel Welker, production manager.

“Most veterans are very skilled, qualified individuals,” Welker said.

“They make good employees and they have done so much for us. It’s just our way of giving back.”

Tammy Baremore, owner of Missouri Plastics near Jackson, said the program has paid off for her firm, too.

“We understand the value they bring to our company in experience and skills and years of knowledge,” Baremore said.

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