Program aims to put vets to work
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 HiringHeroes@NEPIRC.com or call Eric Esoda at 570-819896, ext. 116.