Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Statewide ‘hiring heroes’ initiative builds upon existing job programs for veterans
As Gov. Steve Beshear announced the new Hiring Kentucky Heroes initiative, Daniel Ridley’s emotions flared when he heard the governor mention his name.
“It felt outstanding and humbling and surprising,” Ridley said. “I knew that there was going to be some kind of tie in to the program we have here at Gateway, but I didn’t know it was going to be like that.”
Gov. Beshear recognized Ridley for his work in helping veteran’s find employment once their active military duty is over. Ridley serves as the career mapping specialist for the Veterans Employment and Training Services (VETS) program at Gateway Community and Technical College in Covington, Ky. He works to help veterans successfully transition from the military to college and to ultimately find employment with partnering manufacturing companies.
As flattering as Beshear’s words were, Ridley knows the announcement of the initiative means bigger things.
“It’s such a great thing for the program, to get the word of mouth out there that we’re here to help veterans.”
A veteran himself, Ridley knows how far a bit of assistance can go.
A native of Cookeville, Tenn., Ridley completed two tours of duty as a member of the U.S. Army Reserve, 844th Engineering Battalion. From 2004 to 2005, he was stationed at Camp Arifjan at the Kuwait and Iraq border. He returned to Iraq in 2009 and spent a year at Camp Striker in Baghdad. After earning a bachelor’s degree in secondary education with a focus on English from Tennessee Technological University, Ridley struggled to find work.
“I found it difficult to get a job in my major,” Ridley said. “So I worked doing data entry for a little while, then really kind of lucked upon this position here. I obviously had ups and downs. I was unemployed for about a year.”
Ridley said his struggles are typical for what the average veteran faces. Returning home after years in the military can pose a problem that some have more trouble with than others.
“I think it depends on the individual and the situation and how well you can adjust from having a total life change. Especially when you’re deployed, being in a war zone and coming back, you have to almost relearn how to live. That’s probably why a lot of veterans can have difficulty returning.”
Finding a job can help ease veterans back into a civilian lifestyle.
“It’s important for veterans to know that they’re valued for their service,” Ridley said. “Hopefully that can help them readjust. “
What Hiring Kentucky Heroes hopes to do is connect programs like VETS at Gateway and others like it throughout the state with veterans in need of employment. The initiative plans to provide better access to training, state and national job fairs, educational opportunities and to offer more incentives for employers to hire veterans.
Ridley is adamant that men and women who served in the military are some of the most capable, reliable and disciplined workers available and hopes companies begin to take notice.
“As Gov. Beshear pointed out, and as we like to get across to employers, veterans do make the best employees,” Ridley said. “If more and more veterans get hired as employees, hopefully it spreads like wildfire, where having the fact that you served your country on your application is as important as a line on a résumé as far as education or something like that. That’s our hope anyway.”
Visit the Hiring Kentucky Heroes web portal here.