BY NOW, much of the Mid north Coast population knows of the unique 'We're Here Initiative', which is all about encouraging those leaving or who have left the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to consider relocating to the Nambucca Valley for further employment or their retirement.
Many employers in the Nambucca Valley can see the benefits of considering personnel leaving Defence due to their variety of skill sets on offer and have agreed to give job interviews to suitably qualified ADF leavers for advertised vacancies.
What many here on the Mid North Coast may not know is the NSW Government has been leading the charge in comparison to other states when it comes to the post-military employment of veterans with the ground-breaking NSW Government Veterans Employment Program (VEP).
The VEP has two key aims: To communicate with veterans about working in the NSW public sector and also to build a network of collaborators who advocate for the transferable skills veterans bring to the workforce.
The program is managed by the NSW Government's Office for Veterans Affairs (OVA) which has the responsibility of ensuring the State honours its commitment that our veterans, past and present, are honoured with dignity and respect.
The OVA manages state programs commemorating and assisting veterans in collaboration with all NSW government agencies, the Commonwealth and community stakeholders.
The NSW Government says the program is an initiative to bridge the gap for veterans ending their military careers and beginning meaningful civilian employment.
It began in 2015 when the NSW Government decided to commit to assisting 200 veterans find employment in the NSW public sector by 2019. The OVA far exceeded its own expectations and by October 2018, no less than 831 veterans had been employed in the NSW public sector.
The success of the program has resulted in it being extended to 2023 and the new target is for an additional 1000 veterans to be employed in the public sector.
ADF provided figures on personnel discharging from the military indicates that some 5000-6000 discharge each year, with over 1000 of those moving to, or remaining in, NSW.
Over the 2018-19 financial year, approximately 356 of those personnel separated from Defence in the NSW Central and North Coast areas. Of those, 356, nearly one-third, found employment in the NSW Public Sector.
The OVA is also responsible for the Veterans Education Program which, in partnership with TAFE NSW, assists eligible veterans to progress new civilian career paths by funding student fees for TAFE Smart and Skilled courses.
During the 2019-20 financial year, 17 veterans received funding for their chosen courses. Over the past 12 months the program has been actively seeking collaborators and has strengthened its relationships with organisations such as TAFE NSW, the Office of Local Government NSW and the ADF.
An ingenious product developed through partnership of the Office of Local Government NSW and the VEP, is the 'Rank 2 Grade Guide'. This easy to follow table enables potential employers to rapidly understand the skills of someone leaving the ADF based on the rank level they reached prior to discharge.
Similarly, veterans are able to use the guide to see how their military qualifications translate when applying for, or considering applying for, a particular job.
This 'Rank 2 Grade Guide' has great utility across the private and public employment sectors and I applaud the Office of Local Government NSW and the VEP for their ingenuity.
The VEP has already achieved more than it had intended, and has done so with little fanfare.
The runs the program has on the board demonstrate the commitment the State of NSW has made to the veterans community. From here, the program is continuing to spread the word and is actively looking to work with Local Government on the employability of veterans.
I am hopeful that the private sector will increasingly pick up on what the NSW Government has already identified and taps into the potential for a ready made skilled workforce.
If you would like to know more about this program please go to www.vep.veterans.nsw.gov.au