Witness Testimony of Maj Ty Shepard, Director, California National Guard Employment Initiative
Early in my tenure as The Adjutant General (TAG) of California I became aware of a problem that was reducing the readiness of our force. Historically high unemployment and underemployment in our ranks was negatively affecting morale, training, accountability, Soldier and family resiliency, and good order and discipline. The Work for Warriors (WFW) program was developed to solve this readiness problem.
With a one-time grant from the Speaker of the California Assembly, we stood up WFW as a pilot program in July 2012 with the goal to reduce unemployment in the California National Guard (CNG) by 25% in one year.
The WFW team is made up of one Program Manager, two Applicant Coordinators, one Information Technology Specialist, and one Business Coordinator. In addition, the Department augmented the WFW program with an existing State Active Duty position to lead the effort.
WFW directly places unemployed CNG members into jobs. Private sector businesses contact the WFW Business Coordinator with job openings. The Applicant Coordinators use the WFW database to identify unemployed CNG candidates that meet the specific job requirements. The WFW staff then guides the unemployed CNG member all the way through the hiring process (resume preparation, interview prep, and employment acceptance). The attached enclosure includes the many businesses and business partners we are working with to place Guard members into the civilian workforce.
The WFW program is especially effective in reducing the high unemployment rates of CNG units returning from deployments overseas. We’ve found that many units returning from deployments have unemployment rates well over 50%. This high rate of unemployment had remained a problem because federal programs that assist deployed reservists do not begin until 180 days after the service member returns to California. To close this gap, the WFW staff contacts the units while they are still overseas and works with unit leadership to develop a plan to immediately reintegrate unemployed Soldiers and Airmen into the civilian workforce. Once the unit is back in the United States, the WFW staff provides the unit with program information at their federal demobilization site, often located in another state, and begins setting up job interviews for deployed service members. The results have been dramatic. Placing Soldiers and Airmen in jobs immediately upon their return from overseas allows for a more successful reintegration and can reduce behavioral health problems, substance abuse, and domestic violence.
The success of the program is based on our use of the chain of command. Our staff uses the existing CNG chain of command to ensure unemployed service members are made aware of the WFW program, and encouraged by their first-line leaders to participate. WFW is also using social media and web services to get information to service members. Leveraging this no-cost method of communication has allowed the WFW team to push information quickly to mobile devices and computers and place members into jobs as quickly as 24 hours from receiving a job opening.
The WFW program is the most effective direct job placement program of its kind in the nation; on average the program places two guardsmen every day. The program is remarkably cost effective compared to federal standards and represents significant savings to the government when factoring in unemployment compensation costs. Successful federal veterans’ employment initiatives typically have a total cost of over $10,000 per veteran placed. The WFW program is averaging a $550 cost per placement.
The following WFW program information incorporates data from the program’s inception on March 29, 2012 through the 2012 calendar year:
• Number of Service members Directly Asking for Employment Support: 2,171
• Number of Resumes Completed: 875
• Number of Resumes Submitted for Interviews: 975
• Number of Service members Placed into Jobs: 965
• Number of Companies Providing Jobs to Fill: 92
The WFW program has helped hundreds of California’s Guard members find employment so they can support their families and contribute to their communities. This direct placement model is transferable to other states that have high unemployment and/or underemployment in their National Guard force. It is also directly transferable to the Reserves.
We will remain committed to this important program until it is no longer needed. We are already working with the National Guard Bureau and other states to share the program and the best-business-practices we have developed. I look forward to working with the Committee to be part of the solution in getting our Soldiers, Airmen, and Veterans back to work.