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Jobs program for National Guard members expanding to include all military branches

An effort to help S.C. National Guard members find jobs will be expanded to serve all military members, Gov. Nikki Haley announced last week.

Advisers for Operation Palmetto Employment will be stationed at the 12 S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce offices around the state, including the Beaufort County location on Castle Rock Road, to assist military members searching for jobs.

The program started in October 2011 and was expanded with a $750,000 Department of Defense grant, Haley said Feb. 24 during a luncheon in Columbia.

Since its creation in 2011, Operation Palmetto Employment has helped more than 1,800 National Guard members get jobs, slashing the unemployment rate among the National Guard from 16 percent to about 4 percent, program director Kyle Caldwell said.

Caldwell said veterans, current service members or family members can sign up for help on the program's website. Interested employers can also sign up to connect with job seekers who have been pre-screened by the program.

Advisors at Employment and Workforce offices will offer one-on-one help and be a point of contact for military members looking for jobs. However, the advisors will share duties, working as a team to "make sure no one falls through the cracks," Caldwell said.

Beaufort County already has two local programs -- the Lowcountry Economic Alliance's Transitional Workforce Educational Assistance Collaborative and the Technical College of the Lowcountry's Transitioning Military Program -- to help military members find jobs.

The TWEAC program, which was created by the Lowcountry Economic Alliance and the city of Beaufort in 2012, seeks to match nearly 1,000 veterans that exit from local installations each year with local employers, alliance executive director Kim Statler said.

Statler said the program helps veterans use their skills in civilian life, and it helps the alliance market the area's talented labor pool.

At TCL, nearly 100 veterans have taken courses designed to help them apply military aviation skills to the civilian field, program director Paul Merritt said. Similar to the TWEAC program, Merritt and TCL hope to build a talented labor pool for aviation businesses,luring them to the area or building connections with firms already in Savannah and Charleston.

Additionally, the Lowcountry Economic Alliance held the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Hiring Our Heroes job fair in September that is expected to return in the fall of 2014, Statler said.

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