JVS Joins Mayor Garcetti’s 10,000 Strong Veterans Hiring Initiative

Former JVS Veterans First Client Christina Watkins is Featured Speaker at Mayor’s Press Conference.

Monday, June 09, 2014 – When Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced an ambitious citywide effort to reduce veteran unemployment in Los Angeles, members of JVS senior leadership team were standing at the Mayor’s side in support of a campaign geared at finding our returning heroes meaningful employment in the civilian workforce.

JVS COO Claudia Finkel and Director of Workforce Development Marguerite Womack were on hand at City Hall as Garcetti and L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas launched the 10,000 Strong Veterans Hiring campaign. JVS administrators joined more than 140 employer and nonprofit partners who have committed to helping 10,000 veterans get jobs in Los Angeles by 2017. More than 300,000 veterans live in Los Angeles County.

“Securing and sustaining employment is the cornerstone of our promise back to our veterans,” said Mayor Garcetti. “We say they are returning heroes. We have to treat them as such. JVS has been a reliable partner that has done great work, and I was very proud today to hear one of their great successes and what they’re doing for veterans.”

“We are very excited about this joint commitment between the city, county, business and nonprofit worlds,” added Womack. “The commitment from businesses to hire veterans will go a long way toward reducing the high unemployment rates among our returning heroes.”

In addition to speeches by city and county dignitaries, experts and business partners, the news conference included remarks by Christina Watkins, a former client of JVS Veterans First program who now helps other veterans in need of job search assistance   

Through its award-winning Veterans First program, JVS provides professional career coaching and assessments to help identify veterans’ interests, strengths and transferable skills for civilian jobs, job placement assistance and Battle Buddy Groups for networking and support. The program provides assistance to recently separated servicemen and women of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts who encounter barriers to employment as they try to reintegrate to civilian life. 

These are clients like Christina Watkins, a U.S. Army veteran who – even as she was completing a Master’s degree – found herself unable to find work.  Watkins, who served two tours in Iraq, arrived in Los Angeles, sleeping for an extended period of time on her aunt’s couch. Despite extensive skills learned in the military, she had difficulty persuading potential employers that these skills would translate to the civilian workforce.

Eventually Watkins was referred to the JVS WorkSource Center – part of the America’s Job Center Network – in Marina del Rey where Veterans First career coach Alex Mack helped her explain her transferrable skills to potential employers and helped her connect with other job seeking veterans.

Watkins ended up acquiring the highest civilian paying job of her career. She currently provides similar job search assistance to other veterans through the Salvation Army Haven’s Veterans Employment Services, a job which JVS helped her find. 

“Our military members are accustomed to getting things done and taking care of others,” she said. “So it can be a challenge to reach out and admit that we aren’t getting it done on our own.”

Himself an active U.S. Naval Officer, Mayor Garcetti highlighted Watkins’ experience within the WorkSource system as a success story. His administration recently announced the redesign of the WorkSource Center network within Los Angeles, an effort that will include making sure that at least 10% of the clients being served are veterans – a $9 million commitment.

“We’re truly proud of (Christina’s) journey,” the Mayor said.  “It’s a story we hope to multiply 10,000 times.”

"Veterans First  is an example of what we’re trying to do right now making sure we get veterans not only off the street and get them the care they need, but to become self-sufficient, and the best way to do that is with a job," he continued. "So we congratulate (JVS) and welcome them as a great partner in this initiative."

To watch highlights from the press conference, click here.

Serving the widely diverse Southern California community, JVS Los Angeles helps people of all faiths and backgrounds overcome barriers to employment so they can become self-sufficient. From recently released veterans to at risk, foster and probation youth, the long term unemployed and people with disabilities, our goal is to provide individuals with the tools, resources and support they need through job training, mentoring, expert career coaching, job placement and retention support. Leaders in the workforce development field and advocates for the underserved, JVS Los Angeles was founded in 1931 to fight workplace discrimination and help Jewish refugees fleeing the political upheaval in Europe to find jobs and begin new lives. Over eight decades later we are going strong – serving nearly 30,000 people each year.

June 9, 2014