Veterans face many challenges when looking for work after leaving the military.
Dallas is one of the cities the Department of Veterans Affairs has chosen for a new program engineered to improve veteran hiring. North Texas companies are already on the job.
Last year, 7.2 percent of veterans who left the service after 9/11 were unemployed. That’s a full point higher than the general population. For many of the vets who do get a job, it’s nothing like the service. Just ask 32 year-old Army veteran Joe Hambleton.
“You’ve spent so much time already overseas, you kind of adjusted to working hard, working outdoors, working in small team environments. Kind of being back in that camaraderie,” he says.
Which is why eight hours a day in an air conditioned office isn’t always a great fit. Hambleton’s on a much different track. He’s in Carrolton with a handful of other vets, training to climb wireless towers that can reach heights of 200 feet.
This course is the first rung in the training ladder.
“To get us qualified as a competent climber as it’s called. Which is tower technician level 1,” he says.
Hambleton is working through a program called Warriors4Wireless. The non-profit has placed about 700 veterans in wireless industry jobs. Some climb, some run cable and test signals, some build towers from scratch.
They start off making about 50 thousand dollars a year. Program President Kelley Dunne says that number goes up fast.
“People who have been in the program 2 or 3 years have been promoted 2 or 3 times and some are making six figures,” says Dunne. “And these are guys that were at Walmart or Petco or a minimum wage job.”
VA Secretary Bob McDonald wants more partnerships like Warriors4Wireless. He traveled to Carrolton last month for an IT roundtable with a couple dozen North Texas companies. It’s all part of a new program called the Veteran Economic Communities Initiative.
“The surest way to make sure you don’t have a homeless veteran or a veteran in need is to get them a job,” McDonald says. “And veterans have been trained so well in the military they have so many skills they can bring to bear, it’s just a matter of somebody helping them do that translation.”
Which is what the Dallas arm of this effort is working to do.
The Booming IT Industry
At the roundtable, McDonald said the IT industry expects to see 1.4 million new jobs by 2020. Now, there are only about 400 thousand workers who are ready to take them. That leaves a lot of room to hire vets.
“Right now it’s basically about 250 thousand plus veterans leave the military each year,” says McDonald. “I’d love for every single one of them to have a job once when they landed back in this country.”
Not just a job, a career. That’s Joe Hambleton’s goal. He’s a single father to a 4-year-old.
“Financial stability and opportunity to be able to provide for my son on a single income,” says Hambleton.
A fitting goal for a man who spent most of his adult life serving his country.