Returning service men and women are finding it even more difficult than the rest of the labor force to find work these days. The Small Business Administration intends to help them build their own solution to that problem — by creating their own jobs.
The agency on Thursday announced a new partnership with the Marine Corps to help returning service members and veterans launch new businesses by providing entrepreneurship resources and training. Operation Boots to Business, as the program is being called, will provide an in-person, basic entrepreneurship course followed by an optional eight-week online business planning course provided by Syracuse University.
Subsequently, the SBA will help direct service members with more specific needs to its network of Small Business Development Centers, Women Business Centers and SCORE offices.
“Our service men and women have made incalculable contributions and sacrifices for our country, and supporting them as they pursue their dreams to start or grow their own business is one of our highest priorities,” SBA Administrator Karen Mills said during the announcement at the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Va.
More than a quarter million service members leave the military each year, but many are struggling to find work back home. Government data this past fall showed that the unemployment rate among veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq stood at 12.1 percent, significantly higher than the current national average of 8.2 percent.
Young veterans face an especially bleak picture back home, with the rate of unemployment for those age 18 to 24 exceeding 30 percent.
“What we have built together is going to do a great job preparing our Marines and their families for transition into the marketplace,” U.S. Marine Corps Brigadier General Robert F. Hedelund said during a media call on Wednesday. “We are going to turn over more productive Marines back to the civilian community, and they’re going to bring their inherent leadership skills along with the skills they learn through Boots to Business to start up their own businesses and non-profits.”
The program will be first tested at Quantico., Cherry Point, N.C., Camp Pendleton, Calif., and Twenty-Nine Palms, Calif., with plans to expand to bases across the country in 2013.