The coronavirus pandemic has impacted everyone in one way or another. For veterans, it meant a nearly 12% unemployment rate at the peak over the summer months, and for veterans in the Tri-State area, losing a job could create a major roadblock.
“We're seeing a lot of people who have been veterans that were employed in other opportunities that have since lost their jobs and are trying to re-enter the workforce,” said Natalie Ruppert, Manager of Workforce Development within the Kenton County Library.
Homefront took a look at Workforce Development’s Northern Kentucky Accountability Group in June 2019. Then we found a huge conference room full of job seekers -- networking, sharing experiences and listening to Ruppert and her team of experts as they tried to help each person find a new opportunity. Those same rooms have sat empty for months because of COVID-19.
“If you lost your job, pre COVID, you always had to answer the question in an interview. Why are you here? Why are you looking for a new job? What happened to you? Why have you been unemployed for four or five, six months? Now you'd say, well, you know, my company was affected by the pandemic by COVID-19. And I was cut,” Ruppert said. “So everyone kind of has that backup. So that's made it a little easier for people to tell that story”
The normal groups learning how to navigate the job search landscape didn’t go away -- they just went online like everyone else.
“It is in the Zoom environment. We may have, you know, 75, 80, 90 people on the call,” said Ruppert
She said groups of eight to 10 people team with a volunteer coach that helps them talk about their career objectives and get help in any areas of the search process they’re struggling with at that time. Ruppert says they’ve helped more people so far in 2020 than in all of 2019.
“In 2019, we hosted 261 separate workforce programs, and we had about 7450 people attend those,” she said. “As of the end of August, we've only hosted 221 programs, but we're already at 7886 people participating.”
She said it took some time for everyone to adjust to what was going on while more and more people found themselves unemployed.
“April and May, no one landed jobs," she said. "All of a sudden, things started taking off. I think human resources departments got their act together and figured out how they were going to function in the hire and interview in this new era.”
She says they’ve had success with Amazon hiring veterans along with other companies both in-state and in other parts of the country who are taking advantage of the ability of people to work virtually.
“In July, we had 17 people land jobs that were participating in the accountability group. In August, we've now had 13. So we're feeling really comfortable with that,” Ruppert said.
Ruppert said anyone who is unemployed or looking to change careers can visit their job search website for more information.
According to Bureau of Labor statistics, the veteran unemployment rate has dropped to 6.4%. Ruppert said her team has a proven strategy to help job seekers compete in this pandemic environment.
“We have made workforce development one of our priorities, and it's part of our strategic goals,” Ruppert said. “So we do everything we can to help people find jobs, veterans included, everyone else.”
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