PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 5, 2011 — Anticipating the scores of veterans expected to return home from war and witnessing others already back but struggling to secure sustainable work, state Sen. Anthony H. Williams and the Senate Democratic Policy Committee are moving to act.
That begins with a public legislative roundtable discussion to hammer out viable economic solutions for Pennsylvania’s returning heroes, taking place at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 8, at the 103rd Engineer Battalion Armory building, 3205 Lancaster Ave. in Philadelphia. Veterans, their families and advocacy groups are welcome to attend and must bring photo ID in order to enter to armory building.
On the docket will be furthering development of employment, job training and workforce resources for returning service men and women.
Scheduled to participate are William E. Blackman, Family Assistance Center specialist from the Pennsylvania National Guard; Marsha Four, executive director of the Philadelphia Veterans Multi-Service and Education Center; Anselm Sauter, public policy manager at the Greater Philadelphia Area Chamber of Commerce; Laura Reddick, associate director for Adult and Veterans Recruitment at Temple University; Kenneth Vennera, board chairman at Operation HomeFront; Raymond Bates, veterans employment representative for PA CareerLink at the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry; and Jerry Pendergrass, veterans service officer with the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.
“It is my hope that this discussion is a catalyst for meaningful ways on the state and local level to aid our veterans in transitioning from military service into the workforce,” said Williams, who has filed a bill offering state tax credits for employers who hire veterans.
“The world economy continues to impact us all, but for veterans — especially those under 24 — the job outlook has been horrible,” Williams said. “That’s unconscionable, given their sacrifice.”
The Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs reports nearly 1 million veterans and their families reside in the Commonwealth. Philadelphia and Delaware counties are home to 1 in 10 of these families.
According to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics data, veterans have a disproportionate rate of unemployment. But for those vets under 24, the jobless rate is 30.4 percent; among their non-veterans peers, it’s 15.3 percent.
“We’re talking about some of the brightest, most well-trained individuals the nation produces,” Williams said. “Given the increasingly competitive global environment we’re in, we can’t afford to sideline that kind of talent.
“This dialogue only begins our work,” he added. “We’re not coming together just to talk. This is about planning, so that we can act.
“It’s the least those of us who have benefitted from their service can do.”
Prior to the panel discussion, the senator will hold a brief ceremony at 10:15 a.m. to honor Master Sgt. Alfred DeSerio of Darby, a 105-year-old Marine veteran who served in World War II and the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam, and Julius Jackson of Yeadon, an Army Air Corps veteran of World War II who served as a member of the Tuskegee Airmen.