Job Training Program Gives More Vets A Chance

By Alex Branch

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) – Terry Lee and Bruce Sledge meet three to four days a week in the group study section of the Tarrant County College South Campus library.

Textbooks and manuals with titles like Air Conditioning System and Design and pages showing psychometric charts that illustrate the physical and thermal properties of moist air are scattered between them.

For two older military veterans who haven’t been full-time students in about 30 years, it is pretty heavy stuff.

“I graduated high school in 1969, so I’ve got some cobwebs,” Sledge, a 60-year-old Air Force veteran, said with a chuckle. “These days they have PowerPoint and computers and new technology and everything is at a hyper rate of speed. But I’m ready for the challenge.”

Sledge and Lee, 50, are among the nearly 50,000 unemployed veterans nationally who have been approved for the Department of Veterans Affairs’ new job-training and education program. It is a one-time shot for veterans ages 35 to 60 to get a year of course work in fields offering a high potential for future employment.

The Veterans Retraining Assistance Program was created as part of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama in 2011.

A flood of applications from out-of-work veterans suggests the demand for training is strong. Since the program opened for enrollment in May, Veterans Affairs has received 61,186 applications and approved 48,120. The goal is to train 99,000 veterans over the next two years.

The program is not intended to help veterans get four-year degrees, but rather certificates or training in growing industries, Veterans Affairs officials say. Computer support, business operations and substance-abuse counseling are among the jobs veterans are seeking.

“What it is designed for is to make our veterans quickly eligible to get back into the job market in high-demand occupations,” said Phyllis Curtis, education officer at the VA Regional Office in Muskogee, Okla., which oversees the North Texas program. “We’re very pleased with the level of interest.”

The unemployment rate for veterans was 6.6 percent in August, compared to the national rate of 8.1.

Sledge and Lee were both without jobs when they learned about the program, known as VRAP.

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