For more than two years, Cassandra Miklavcic couldn’t figure out how to open the social safety net for out-of-work Army veterans. She’d visit program after program and find she didn’t qualify.
Her job search grew increasingly urgent following a layoff in 2009.
“I was ready to send my kids to my mom,” said Miklavcic, 39.
The DuPont resident finally has some momentum. She’s enrolled in two job-training programs, one to help her learn accounting and another at Clover Park Technical College to steer her toward a manufacturing career with growing Puget Sound aerospace suppliers.
On Thursday in Tacoma, she joined a panel of business representatives and former service members who urged U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., to sustain funding for veterans job-training programs.
“A veteran is a veteran and should not have to grovel for help,” said Anne Sprute, a retired Army chief warrant officer who is working with the Clover Park job training program to help its students pursue new careers.
Murray’s panel took place at General Plastics, a manufacturing company with 200 employees. About 10 percent are veterans.
Company Vice President Kirk Lider said he likes hiring service members for their leadership qualities and flexibility. The tax breaks don’t hurt, either, he said.
Murray wants to encourage industry partnerships to provide a soft landing for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Too often, she said, they have trouble explaining how their military service prepared them for civilian work.
Labor Department figures show Iraq and Afghanistan veterans had a slightly higher unemployment rate than civilians in January.
The picture looks more challenging for female veterans of the two wars. Their unemployment rate last month stood at 17.1 percent compared with 8.1 percent for civilian women.
Miklavcic had an Army assignment as a paralegal that she thought would prepare her well for the civilian world. Instead, she found when she left the service in 2006 that paralegal positions paid less than she earned in the Army.
She discovered Clover Park’s aerospace composite technician program almost by chance. It offers scholarships and condensed training to get veterans into the workforce after just two quarters.
In some cases, it also provides a personal touch to keep students on track. Sprute works with them to help them stay in school.
“I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to me as a veteran to hear veterans come to me and say ‘I don’t have money for gas to get to class,’” she said.
Miklavcic enjoys training for a manufacturing career after years working desk jobs.
“It’s not something they tell female veterans about,” she said.