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Hawaii jobs summit connecting military personnel with potential civilian employers

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Service members exiting the military at a time of military downsizing can take advantage of the Hawaii Transition Summit involving nearly 100 potential employers and participation by the U.S. Departments of Veterans Affairs and Labor.

The transition summits are being held Tuesday and Wednesday at Schofield Barracks and Wednesday and Thursday at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

“It’s the first transition summit held here in Hawaii,” Ann Greenlee, state director of the Labor Department’s Veterans Employment and Training Service, said in an Army-produced news story. 

“We’ve had Hire Our Heroes job fairs, but this summit will be more extensive. It’s an invaluable opportunity to meet national-level employers who will be able to help in the transitioning process.”

Microsoft, Lockheed Martin, FedEx, Bank of America and the Social Security Administration are among the firms and government agencies looking to hire at the Hawaii summit.

Sabrina Rasmussen, transition assistance specialist for the Soldier for Life Transition Assistance Program, said that with sequestration and the potential downsizing of the Army, it makes sense for soldiers to prepare for the future.

“Downsizing is a simple reminder that all soldiers will eventually transition from active duty, and that eventuality might not always coincide with a personal timeline,” she said. “Preparation can never start too early, and this summit can prepare even those who may have no immediate desire or plan to separate from the military.”

The summits include participation by Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert A. McDonald and Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez.

Both officials took part in a roundtable discussion with disabled veterans at the Oahu Veterans Center Monday.

One veteran talked about job barriers to low-income former service members including lack of phone communication and prohibitive cost of public transportation to get to a job.

Another noted a mental health stigma that employers sometime attach to certain veterans, which acts as a barrier to employment.

“That’s a big, big issue,” McDonald, the VA secretary, said in response. “We’ve got to do a better job educating the American people that mental health should not have a stigma. … Every soldier that comes back that has traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress — it’s a relatively low percentage of the total number of veterans who fight in combat, and it’s treatable.”

U.S. Rep. Mark Takai, a Hawaii Democrat, said at the roundtable that “we haven’t done a good job at the front end — front end meaning when people are in the military, developing a track so they can leave and go straight in (to a civilian job).”

In some cases, a smooth transition exists, such as medic to emergency medical technician and military truck driver to civilian commercial driver, Takai said.

McDonald, Perez and Gov. David Ige will host a listening session Wednesday with women and Native Hawaiian veterans about the challenges they face seeking civilian employment at the Oahu Veterans Center.          

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