Microsoft, Sen. Patty Murray and Sen. Richard Burr Convene Roundtable on Veterans and Unemployment

Today, I joined U.S. Senators Patty Murray and Richard Burr in Washington, D.C. to co-host a veterans roundtable, where we brought together veterans, veteran services organizations and nonprofit organizations to discuss the challenges veterans face returning to the workforce and learn how the public and private sector can work together to give them the opportunities they deserve.

The economic downturn has been particularly hard on the men and women returning from serving our country in the armed forces. The unemployment rate for post 9/11-era veterans has averaged 11.6 percent over the past year – significantly higher than their non-veteran counterparts.

Senator Burr, Senator Murray, Mr. Fang A. Wong, national commander for the American Legion and in discussion during this morning’s veterans roundtable.

During the roundtable we heard from six nonprofits that provide technology skills training, job placement and support services to veterans and their spouses as part of the Microsoft Elevate America veterans initiative:

· Able-Disabled Advocacy, Inc., San Diego

· Bellevue College, Bellevue, Wash.

· Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont Inc., Charlotte, N.C.

· Gulf Coast Workforce Board, Panama City, Fla.

· Per Scholas INC., New York

· Veterans Inc., Worcester, Mass.

We also had the opportunity to hear directly from veterans about their personal experiences. Each veteran’s story is unique but there are several common themes. The transition from military service to civilian life, particularly for veterans returning from war, is extremely difficult. Many veterans struggle with knowing what to do next, they often have difficulty finding jobs because they need new skills and don’t have the certifications required by civilian employers.

You can hear their stories directly in these video interviews.

Julius Clemente, U.S. Navy Veteran

(Please visit the site to view this video)

Nicholas Riggins, U.S. Air Force Veteran

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U.S. Veterans Julius Clemente and Nicholas Riggins participating in this morning’s veterans roundtable.

Senators Burr and Murray discussed the incredible value that veterans can bring not only to this country, but to companies, and that it’s important for employers to recognize that value through their hiring practices. They also talked about the critical role the private sector – working with the public sector – can play in helping address the problem of veteran unemployment.

From talking with the veterans and the organizations that support them, it’s clear we are facing an opportunity divide. While many people have the skills needed to succeed in today’s economy, many others do not. And even some who have the right skills have difficulty finding access to opportunities in the workforce. We believe that programs such as our Elevate America veterans initiative, which promote partnership between the public, private and nonprofit sectors, can help close this divide and give our veterans the opportunities they deserve.

About the Author

General Counsel & Executive Vice President, Legal and Corporate Affairs, Microsoft

Brad Smith is Microsoft's General Counsel and Executive Vice President of Legal and Corporate Affairs. He leads the company's Department of Legal and Corporate Affairs (LCA), which has approximately 1,100 employees located in 55 countries. Mr. Smith is responsible for the company's legal work, its intellectual property portfolio and patent licensing business as well as its government affairs and philanthropic work. He also serves as Microsoft's corporate secretary and its chief compliance officer. Mr. Smith currently co-chairs the board of directors of Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) and is the chair-elect of the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity. In Washington state, Mr. Smith has served as chair of the Washington Roundtable, a leading Washington state-based business organization, and he has advanced several statewide education initiatives.