Vets 4 HIRE, a bridge from military to civilian employment

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King County employees and recent participants in the Vets 4 HIRE Program.

The King County Vets 4 HIRE (Heroes In Reintegration Experiences) Fellowship Program was created to support military personnel and veterans in making a successful transition to civilian employment. The Program goal is to provide veterans with valuable hands-on, practical experience to increase their competitiveness for King County and other civilian positions.

The Program started in response to President Obama’s 2012 plans to downsize the military. King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn and others motioned for the Human Resources Division to explore creating an internship program for veterans.

“A disproportionate unemployment rate exists among Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts,” said Dunn, prime sponsor of the Motion. “King County should help to provide our veterans the opportunity to apply the skills they acquired in our nation’s armed forces—skills which would benefit not only King County, but any employer in our region.”

In October of that year King County launched the HERO (Heroes Employment Reintegration Opportunity) Pilot Program for 2013-2014. Its sole purpose was to help veterans transition from their military career to civilian life and gain skills to secure future employment. Incorporating lessons learned and process improvements has allowed it to evolve into a robust, expanded program, now titled the Vets 4 HIRE Fellowship.

Both Programs were subsidized by the Veterans and Human Services Levy, first passed in 2005 and then renewed in 2011. Levy funds reimburse departments 50% of the first six months of the veteran’s wages not to exceed a total of $6,250 per Veteran.

The Program works with King County departments to identify practical, hands-on learning opportunities in a variety of fields. The veteran serves in an intern (or fellow) capacity for six months with a possible extension, and there are both part-time and full-time opportunities available year-round. Pay is based on military rank, education and qualifications, with an ORCA card provided to offset public transportation costs. This flexibility allows for multiple positions throughout the different King County agencies, departments and teams, giving veterans diversity in skill-building experiences.

View the King County Connects Public Service Announcement focusing on the Vets 4 HIRE Program, featuring Councilmember Reagan Dunn and Army Veteran/ King County Employee Steve Stamper.

View the King County Connects Public Service Announcement focusing on the Vets 4 HIRE Program, featuring Councilmember Reagan Dunn and Army Veteran/ King County Employee Steve Stamper.

“Veterans thrive in team settings and in thinking outside of the box to achieve goals,” said Aaron Hall, a supervisor in the Department of Natural Parks and Resources (DNRP) who has worked with three veterans through the Program. “A veteran can revitalize a work unit and provide unique perspectives in finding efficiencies.”

“I encourage each division to seek out multiple opportunities for their fellows. The Parks Division exposes our fellows to multiple work units during the course of their fellowship to enhance their experience.”

Through the multiple services provided by King County, veterans can find their fit in an agency or department that will allow them to develop the skills needed to enter the workforce successful, qualified and confident in their experiences.

Davin Simmons, current Fellow with King County Council, appreciates the recognition King County has for the skills each veteran brings to the workplace.

“I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to learn and work at King County Council. I can sincerely say every day I wake up, I cannot wait to get to work and tackles issues for our taxpayers. Each day brings new challenges and opportunities.”

For more information, visit the Vets4HIRE website at www.kingcounty.gov/Vets4HIRE. If you are interested in welcoming a veteran into your department, agency or unit, contact your human resources representative about creating a Veteran Fellowship experience. Act quickly as funding is limited to the first 16 opportunities, and runs out at the end of 2016.

To learn about the variety of services and benefits available to veterans, spouses and dependents attend a “Be Informed! Veteran Services and Benefits” workshop, held either Monday, May 9, or Wednesday, May 18.