Pro­gram aims to put vets to work

The Citizens' Voice - - BUSINESS - BY NI­COLE DITOLLA STAFF WRITER Con­tact the writer: ndi­tolla@timessham­

Two years af­ter 9/11, Christo­pher Re­ichard an­swered the call to arms.

He was 19 and knew col­lege was not for him. The Ma­rine Corps of­fered op­por­tu­ni­ties to grow per­son­ally and pro­fes­sion­ally while serv­ing his na­tion at war.

“I knew that I wouldn’t do well in col­lege at that time in my life and thought the mil­i­tary could help ma­ture me a bit while I got to travel and see the world,” Re­ichard said.

Af­ter serv­ing most of his four years in Iraq, Re­ichard left the Ma­rine Corps with few op­tions and no clear idea of where he wanted to go from there. Re­ichard joined the Ocean City, Mary­land, po­lice force. Af­ter two sum­mers in Mary­land, Re­ichard worked in New Jersey as a com­mer­cial diver be­fore en­rolling at the Univer­sity of Scran­ton. The for­mer Ma­rine will grad­u­ate in De­cem­ber with a mas­ter’s de­gree in oc­cu­pa­tional ther­apy.

Veter­ans seek­ing a sim­i­lar op­por­tu­nity can en­roll in “Hir­ing Our He­roes,” a free four­week pro­gram de­signed to help un­em­ployed veter­ans. The North­east­ern Penn­syl­va­nia In­dus­trial Re­source Cen­ter started the man­u­fac­tur­ing-job ini­tia­tive. Classes for tech­ni­cal and in­ter­per­sonal skills in ad­di­tion to online train­ing cour­ses will be taught by a col­lec­tion of NEPIRC’s ex­perts, Lack­awanna Col­lege fac­ulty and mem­bers of the So­ci­ety of Engi­neers.

The pro­gram was con­ceived to com­bat a na­tional and lo­cal short­age of ca­reer op­por­tu­ni­ties that specif­i­cally tar­get veter­ans. The Bureau of La­bor Sta­tis­tics es­ti­mated that there were 22,000 un­em­ployed veter­ans in Penn­syl­va­nia in 2016.

“You’ve done your duty, now it’s time to do ours,” said Eric Joseph Esoda, NEPIRC pres­i­dent and CEO.

Lo­cal and state part­ner­ships pro­vided the fi­nan­cial foun­da­tion to make the pro­gram pos­si­ble. The state Depart­ment of Com­mu­nity and Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment pro­duced a grant. Other sup­port came from the North­east Penn­syl­va­nia man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor. Lack­awanna Col­lege of­fered space, food ser­vices and fac­ulty. The So­ci­ety of Man­u­fac­tur­ing Engi­neers pledged online class in­struc­tors. Six man­u­fac­tur­ers will be mon­i­tor­ing the progress of par­tic­i­pants, re­view­ing their re­sumes for po­ten­tial hires.

Rooted in the idea of giv­ing back to the peo­ple who vol­un­teer to serve, the “Hir­ing Our He­roes” pro­gram be­gan Sept. 11 and will run four weeks.

Com­pa­nies in­ter­ested in sup­port­ing the pro­gram or host­ing a plant tour can email Hir­ or call Eric Esoda at 570-819896, ext. 116.

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