MARIETTA - Veterans returning from military service and their families have a new resource for assistance with finding employment and other needs, through a pilot program at the Washington-Morgan Community Action Agency in Marietta.
The Veterans Employment Training Service (VETS) was started back in July, and the local program is one of only six pilot projects being tested throughout Ohio.
"Basically the goal is to assist recent vets from the Iraq or Gulf War conflicts, but this office will serve any veterans. I try to fill the gaps that other veterans programs may not cover," said Karen Pawloski, veterans employment specialist with Washington-Morgan Community Action.
She said the program's main purpose is to help veterans obtain training and break down barriers that may prevent them from getting work as they return to civilian life.
"That help may include child care, transportation (fuel vouchers), or other services," Pawloski said. "And sometimes while a soldier is still on active duty his family back home may need some kind of assistance. A wife may need some retraining to help pay the bills after being out of the workforce for a time."
Working in conjunction with the local One Stop Employment and Training Center as well as community action agencies, Pawloski said the VETS program is uniquely situated to help those returning from military service get back into the workforce.
* The Veterans Employment Training Service (VETS) is available for soldiers and their families in Washington and Morgan counties.
* The one-year pilot program is focused on helping recent veterans obtain training and breaking down barriers to re-entering the workforce.
* For information: Karen Pawloski at Washington-Morgan Community Action, 373-3745.
"There are services for veterans out there, but many don't know about them. Our role is to help people find the services they need-we try to connect the dots," said Kathy Lott-Gramkow, director of employment and training for Community Action.
She said her office hasn't seen a large number of veterans returning to this area so far.
"We've not seen as big an impact here as in other areas of the state, but we are seeing some veterans who are in need of help," Lott-Gramkow said.
She noted one soldier who recently moved into the local area from Florida faced problems obtaining work in his field as a truck driver because he couldn't afford to pay for a Commercial Drivers License.
"The VETS office was able to help, he obtained his Ohio CDL and is now back to work," Lott-Gramkow said. "The office can also point veterans in the right direction to obtain services according to their needs."
Pawloski said the office is providing some tuition support for another veteran who is attending the welding program at the Washington County Career Center.
"Welding jobs are highly needed in this area, especially in the growing oil and gas industry," she said. "They're high-paying jobs, too. Once he completes the program he'll find work in a great-paying job."
VETS assistance is available to veterans in Washington and Morgan counties and is based on income guidelines falling within 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
"That means total income for a family of four would have to be below $46,100," Pawloski said, adding that veterans seeking help from her office are also required to register with the One Stop center where the staff can assist with updating resumes and job searches.
"Many of these returning soldiers may not realize it, but they have not only protected their country, they have also obtained some awesome skills during their service," she said. "And many of those skills are not commonly found in the local area. So I would encourage any veteran to contact the VETS office."
The VETS pilot program funding was provided for one year through the former Ohio Department of Development office. But Pawloski said the response has been good so far, and the services will be needed even more for soldiers returning from Afghanistan.
"This is just a good way to help those that have served us," Lott-Gramkow added.