Solis: Employing veterans is important mission for America

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photoHilda Solis is the U.S. secretary of labor.

Picture this: An applicant walks into a job interview, extends a firm handshake, looks the hiring manager straight in the eye, and begins to detail her impressive qualifications.

Her résumé clearly shows a record of dependability and enthusiasm. It is evident that teamwork and commitment to the mission at hand are hard-wired into her DNA. She has received world-class training from one of the most revered and demanding organizations in the world. And she has been tested, time and again, in pressure-cooker situations.

What's more, if she is hired, the company may receive a tax credit from the federal government of $5,600 or more.

The applicant is a veteran of the U.S. armed forces. And this scenario occurs every day at job interviews across the country. As the U.S. Secretary of Labor, I have no more sacred responsibility than making sure we serve our military heroes as well as they've served us. Not only do our veterans deserve good-paying civilian jobs, but employers deserve, and need, the productivity and profits that will flow from hiring these extraordinary Americans.

In Vancouver, this is particularly important, since more than 15,000 residents are veterans. Putting veterans to work is more than something on my "to do list." It's been my passion. The Veterans' Employment and Training Service, part of the U.S. Department of Labor, is leading efforts to assist our veterans.

We call it our P3 campaign: prepare, provide and protect.

First, we're preparing veterans to communicate their value to potential employers through an intensive, three-day curriculum that helps them write strong résumés, hone their interview techniques and match their military skills with those required in civilian jobs. As President Obama said, if service members could save a life in Afghanistan, they can save a life in an ambulance. And if they could oversee millions of dollars of supplies in Iraq, they can help a business balance its books.

Second, we're providing a wealth of resources through our American Job Center network. Veterans are given priority assistance at nearly 3,000 local employment centers nationwide, including many in Washington. Post-9/11 veterans are eligible for a "Gold Card," which entitles them to six months of intensive service and personalized case management.

We also have innovative online resources. At MyNextMove.org/vets, returning service members can enter their military occupation code and discover civilian jobs where their skills translate. Or they can enter a specific field and browse hundreds of different career options.

A priority

Third, we're protecting the rights of veterans to receive priority consideration for employment in the federal workforce. President Obama signed an executive order to bolster the government's recruitment and retention of veterans. Since that order, more than 225,000 veterans and Reservists have obtained federal employment. I employ thousands of veterans at the Labor Department, and I know firsthand that they are a terrific pool of talent, so this isn't just rhetoric for me. It's reality.

Those who fought to protect our freedoms abroad shouldn't have to fight for jobs when they return home. So my message to America's veterans on Labor Day and every day is this: We're committed to you. Your skills, your experience, and your dedication are crucial to our economic recovery.

And my Labor Day message to employers in is equally important: The best way to honor our veterans is to hire them.