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MTD Exec Board Member Bernie Hostein of Steelworkers meets with DoL Dep Asst Secretary Teresa Gerton.

MTD Exec Board Member Bernie Hostein of Steelworkers meets with DoL Dep Asst Secretary Teresa Gerton.

Using her nearly three decades of service to the country, including 20 as an active duty Army officer, the person overseeing the Labor Department’s (DoL) efforts to place veterans in jobs saluted the U.S.-flag maritime industry for its endeavors in this field.

That message was delivered by Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Veterans’ Employment and Training Service Teresa W. Gerton during her February 20 address to the MTD Executive Board, meeting in Atlanta.

“Those who have worn our nation’s uniform are exceptionally hard workers, and they are a great asset for any organization that will hire them. However, the maritime industry is a particularly great match for them, due to the teamwork, loyalty, and tenacity that they have and you need in your ranks,” she told the board.

Reflecting on her own career as an officer, Gerton recalled her various assignments around the globe. “Everywhere I served, working conditions, units and individual missions were each different, and meaningful in their own way, but, professionalism and dedication to service were demonstrated on a daily basis, regardless of any hardship or challenge,” she said. “I’ve also seen firsthand that this dedication to service does not end with veterans once they hang up their uniform; it continues as they transition to civilian life.”

Gerton noted that the unemployment rate among veterans has dropped steadily as the nation’s economy has improved.  However, veterans under the age of 25 face an extremely daunting challenge, she said. In January, their unemployment rate was 15.8 percent compared to the national unemployment rate for the 18-to-24-year-old non-veteran population of 12.2 percent.

She pointed out that there is room for optimism: “I want you to know that regardless of their age, their length of service, or when they served, we at DoL are ready—working with groups like yours—to help all of our veterans achieve their career goals.”

After asking veterans in the room to be recognized, Gerton indicated she was pleased to witness the amount of outreach the MTD, its affiliates and the maritime industry in general have done in their efforts to hire veterans.

“I’ve been particularly impressed with the job fairs that the industry has been putting on in port cities around the country … and would strongly encourage you to host more,” the deputy assistant secretary stated. “These are great venues for veterans to learn more about the opportunities you have available for them, and they give you a chance to meet current and future candidates.”

In addition to job fairs, Gerton said a network of nearly 2,500 American job centers exists, ready to help the maritime industry locate veteran talent to complement its ranks. In these facilities, she said, veterans, and all American citizens, can receive employment preparation assistance and work with counselors to find the jobs in which they are interested.

She briefed the audience on changes taking place in the veteran employment landscape. At the top was a new Department of Defense (DoD) authority that allows transitioning service members—who are within 180 days of discharge—to enter into full-time apprenticeships with employers. Another change taking place is in the licensing and credentialing space for both service members and veterans.

She added that her DoD colleagues are working specifically with the U.S. Coast Guard to fully consider military experience when granting licenses to merchant mariners.

Gerton called the American Maritime Partnership-sponsored “Military2Maritime” program a great example of what industry can do by coming together and supporting the transition of service members. She lauded the great work being done by many MTD affiliates in the area of apprenticeships, specifically citing the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades. Both unions are conducting programs on military installations around the country to support transitioning service members. (Immediately following the board meeting, she met with representatives from 13 MTD-affiliated unions to further discuss how DoL can work with those unions regarding the hiring of veterans.)

“I hope that you will continue to invest in your efforts to find, recruit, and retain the best people to join your teams,” Gerton said in her wrap-up. “Based on research we have been conducting, we now know what we had always assumed, which is that veteran employees are good for businesses, working harder for their teams, and staying longer on the job, than other employees.”