Less than two years ago, more than 22 percent of Tennessee National Guard members returning from deployment faced an tentative future due to unemployment. Soldiers and Airmen, who in previous months had served their country honorably in Iraq and Afghanistan, were returning home to find a less than stellar job market stifled by a weak and sluggish economy. As the number of unemployed climbed, Major General Max Haston, Tennessee’s Adjutant General, knew something had to be done to help these brave men and women get back into the civilian workforce and provide for themselves and their families.
Maj. Gen. Haston took this mission on as a personal challenge, and volunteered Tennessee as one of four test states for a new pilot program developed by the National Guard Bureau. The Job Connection Education Program, or JCEP, is an employment partnership initiative designed to provide relevant and timely workforce training and job placement assistance to the more than 14,000 Guard members in Tennessee. JCEP works with local companies explaining the program and the benefits of hiring a National Guard member or Reservist. Guard members bring a great deal to the table giving employers leadership, discipline, specialized skill sets, credibility, and a drug free employee.
On September 3, 2013 Tennessee’s JCEP program, led by Command Sergeant Major (Retired) Bill Marley, reached a milestone by finding employment for their 1,000th Veteran, Lieutenant Ian Joyner. Since that time, Marley and his team have helped more than one hundred additional Veterans find employment.
“This initiative is not just about finding a job, but also about employers finding high quality employees”, Marley stated. “JCEP works with local companies explaining the program and the benefits of hiring a National Guard member or Reservist, which are, credibility, discipline, leadership skills, specialized skill sets in specific concentrations, and a drug free employee, just to name a few.”
In just 15 months more than 1,100 Tennesseans have secured or improved their employment through JCEP, and more than 1,400 have registered for the program. Working in conjunction with the Tennessee Department of Labor, local employers and agencies, and the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), Tennessee has become the most successful JCEP program in the nation.