Businesses learn about employing National Guard, reservists at Cape Chamber event

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Although citizen soldiers in the Missouri National Guard and Army Reserve have some work schedule interruptions because of their service, they can make great employees, Command Sgt. Maj. Matthew Jenkins told business leaders at the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce First Friday Coffee.

Jenkins works with the Employer Support of The Guard and Reserve (ESGR) agency of the U.S. Department of Defense, which assists employers and service personnel.

"Our goal is to develop a culture where all employers support and value the military service of their employees," said Jenkins, who served 32 years in the Missouri National Guard.

Also speaking was retired Brig. Gen. Tracy Beckette, who chairs Missouri's Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve division. He said the department helps explain the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act, passed in 1994, to National Guard and Reserve employees and employers.

"Most of us who have served for a long time were never covered by any type of legal protection, but now we have that," he said.

The department also mediates disputes between service members and employers, and helps employers bring their personnel policies into compliance with federal laws related to military service.

More than one-half of the U.S. military is made up of National Guard troops, he said, including 900 in Southeast Missouri and 200 in Cape Girardeau County.

"They train one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer, but other than that, they need a job," Jenkins said.

Many soldiers returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan during the past 10 years are having trouble finding work, he said.

The unemployment rate among veterans is higher than that of the general population.

Across the U.S., an estimated 20 percent of returning National Guard soldiers and airmen are without jobs. That is twice as high as the unemployment rate for all military veterans who have served since September 2001.

Some websites connect employers looking to hire with guard and reserve members looking for work, including Hero 2 Hired, h2h. jobs and Hiring our Heroes, a U.S. Chamber of Commerce initiative, uschamber.com/hiringourheroes. In addition to allowing employers to post profiles and job seekers to post resumes, a skills translator also is available to help understand how military skills can apply to the civilian workforce.

The Work Opportunity Tax Credit is a federal tax credit available to employers who hire veterans. The tax credit can amount to 40 percent of an employee's first $24,000 in wages, but it is scheduled to expire at the end of this year.

Under Missouri's Show Me Heroes program, the state reimburses employers who hire veterans for half of their wages during training.

For more information, call Jenkins at 579-9165.

mmiller@semissourian.com

388-3646

Pertinent address:

1333 N. Sprigg St., Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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