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Kleefisch talks jobs for veterans

Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch addresses the Machinery Haulers Association during one of their annual meetings. Kleefisch stressed the importance of creating opportunities for veterans.

July 31, 2012 | 02:32 PM
FONTANA — The high rate of unemployment among the state's returning veterans is a major concern for Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch.

Speaking at the Machinery Haulers Association meeting July 26, she said veterans unemployment rate is double that of nonveterans.

"Our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are returning home to unemployment rates that are nowhere near our state unemployment rates," Kleefisch said. "Our unemployment rate is about 7 percent in Wisconsin, but sadly, when our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans return home they're looking at unemployment rates at 13 to 15 percent."

Because of this, she's made a major goal in her term to smooth the transition between military and civilian jobs.

"We've eased the path that veterans can take to transfer their learned skill sets into certificates," Kleefisch said. "This group of men and women have remarkable skill sets, who can function under pressure, understand the chain of supply, understand the chain of command, know they have to show up for work on time. This is a great group of men and women, and they aren't coming home to the opportunities they deserve."

In February, Gov. Scott Walker declared 2012 "The Year of the Veteran." Kleefisch said this was to create even more awareness for the difficulties veterans face integrating into civilian jobs.

"It's a way to honor them," she said. "We're having memorials and ceremonies for the anniversary of the Civil War and the Field of Honor as a big thank you. But it's also a way to get the word out about the hardships they face."

Kleefisch said she's connected with Wisconsin businesses, such as Schneider National, to help veterans get into trucking industries.

"People don't realize what an economic driver our veterans can be," she said.

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Jim Towering, president of the association, said Kleefisch was invited to speak at the meeting because of the recent economic changes in the state.

"This was primarily our safety meeting," he said. "We had people talk about changes in federal regulations and those types of things. But we also always want to have a highlight speaker on the economy."

Several Wisconsin based companies are in the group, Towering said. Organized 50 years ago, the group now meets three times a year to have forums on common trucking industry issues.

"It's also just a chance to get together," Towering said. "There are a lot of long standing relationships."


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