Today, when we give tribute to those who have served in our armed forces, many Maine veterans are struggling. Too many returning veterans are out of work, unable to translate their military skills into civilian employment.

Maine has a proud military tradition. We have one of the highest proportions of military veterans of any state in the nation. In 2010, Maine had the nations’s highest armed forces recruitment ratee.

The current economic climate, however, has created particular problems for Maine veterans. In September, more than one-third of all veterans under age 25 were out of work; the nationwide unemployment rate for this group topped 35 percent.

Maine can’t afford to squander the talents of returning veterans. Studies by the Maine Development Foundation tell us that one of our chief impediments to economic expansion is Maine’s slow population growth and aging demographics. If returning veterans cannot find work because their skills don’t match civilian workforce needs, then we need to provide training so they can overcome that barrier.

The Maine State Chamber of Commerce and Maine Manufacturing Extension Partnership (Maine MEP) are launching Jobs Now for Maine Vets, a private-sector job training initiative.

It will provide workforce training for veterans using Maine MEP’s Mobile Outreach Skills Training (MOST) program, which is tailored to specific employment opportunities.

MOST works with manufacturers to identify employment needs and develop a customized curriculum. The employer agrees to offer to hire all successful graduates of the two-week intensive training class, held in a high-tech mobile classroom at the place of business.

The MOST team will provide on-the-job training and mentoring for six months to develop the trainees’ proficiency and ensure a high job retention rate, which is critical to employers.

This customized mobile training program has proved to be a success in states where it has been implemented, with a training completion rate of 97 percent, a job placement rate of 95 percent, and a job retention rate after six months of 91 percent. These results far exceed the placement and retention rates of traditional job training programs at only a fraction of the cost.

The Jobs Now for Maine Vets initiative will complement Hiring our Heroes, a national initiative sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that hosts job fairs for veterans and military spouses. Its goal is to match veterans’ talents with private-sector career opportunities.

We call upon companies across the state to provide financial support for the Jobs Now for Maine Vets initiative.

We owe those who have served in the armed forces a debt of gratitude. Jobs Now for Maine Vets offers a way for Maine’s business community to express its appreciation for their service, at the same time that we deepen the state’s labor pool and strengthen the economy.

For more information about the Jobs Now for Maine Vets, contact the Maine MEP at 623-0680 or visit the website at

Dana Connors is president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce. Bruce Pulkinen is president of Windham Millworks and the chairman of the Maine Manufacturing Extension Partnership.

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