Joint effort to help North Las Vegas employ veterans

U.S. military veterans often have job skills that frequently do not match the abilities needed to fit a civilian lifestyle.

To help make a smooth transition back into society and the workforce, the city of North Las Vegas has teamed up with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Teamsters Local 14 to create the Veterans Intern Program.

“When we get out of the service, nobody wants to hire us because we don’t have the needed experience for most civilian jobs,” said Larry Griffith, a veteran and secretary-treasurer for Teamsters Local 14. “Veterans know how to shoot an AK-47, but you don’t do that in the public or private sector. This program was created to give veterans an opportunity to learn valuable job skills.”

The program trains disabled veterans and places them in various job positions throughout the city to gain work experience. It was announced last November and launched in January.

City officials are hopeful it will result in much-needed help to the city, which had to drastically cut positions to save money during the recession.

“Our goal is to take disabled veterans and teach them how to be more marketable in the job market,” said Paul Sikora, contracts manager for North Las Vegas. “It’s also a win-win for the city because it provides another person there to help and assist and take on some of the workload in various positions that otherwise would not happen.”

Those who join the program can apply for 19 requirements, or unpaid city positions, which include accounting, business licensing, fire prevention, mechanics and permitting.

The program lasts anywhere from six months to a year, according to Sikora, and includes a monthly living allowance from the VA.

Currently, there is one intern in the program — Barbara M. Jones, an Army veteran.

When Jones left the military, she decided to pursue her dream of becoming a chef. After seven years in the culinary field, she wanted to get back into finance.

“This is a great program, especially for soldiers who are just coming out of the military and want to see if a specific field will work for them,” Jones said. “Even though I already had a background in finance, the military is very specialized, and it’s been helpful for me to learn about the concept from the civilian point of view.”

Veterans interested in the program must have a disability related to military service, which qualifies through the VA. There are different levels of disabilities. A veteran with a zero percent rating may have a service-connected condition, but it doesn’t interfere with normal life functions. A veteran with a 100 percent rating will have one or more disabilities that significantly interfere with normal life functions, according to the VA’s website, va.gov.

“Usually, to get into the military, you have to be the cream of the crop,” North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee said. “The most intelligent people in our nation are hired by the military; they’re very selective. My goal is to help those who have served our country and suffered affliction.”

Lee added that those who have gone through the program would have a leg up when considered for a job with the city.

“There are so many homeless veterans in the nation,” Griffith said. “Everyone talks about helping vets, but no one actually helps them. I don’t want to see our veterans on the street. I want to see these people buy homes and put their kids through college. This program gives them a chance at life.”

For more information, call 702-791-9000 or visit lasvegas.va.gov.

To reach North View reporter Sandy Lopez, email slopez@viewnews.com or call 702-383-4686. Find her on Twitter: @JournalismSandy.

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