VIP Program to Help Veterans Find Jobs

Lauderdale County, Miss. Local counties are implementing a new program that helps veterans transition into civilian jobs. It's called the Veterans Internship Program, or VIP. The Department of Labor is covering the salary for 10 weeks of internship for any veteran to learn the job skills needed in area businesses. Officials say it's a benefit to both the employer and employee.

"You don't have to convince employers that veterans are a good hire because they know that these are highly-skilled individuals who have worked in rigorous work environments, have very high work ethics, so they already are seeking that connection," explains Rebecca Brown of the Southern Mississippi Planning and Development District.

The VIP program applies to all counties served by Meridian's WIN Job Center. That includes Lauderdale, Neshoba, Kemper and Clarke counties. Supervisors are working with the center to help veterans find positions so they can take skills they already have and adapt them to the civilian workforce.

"We've been at war for over 10 years now, and there's a lot of veterans out there that are unemployed. I believe the veteran unemployment rate is a bit higher than the national average,' Neshoba County Supervisor and U.S. veteran Obbie Riley says. "So any program specifically designed to help our veterans obtain employment is just a good thing."

The VIP program here is one of the first two pilot programs in the state. There are currently 20 slots available, and the goal is to help veterans find a full-time job.

"Sometimes the employer is so impressed, they don't even finish the internship period because the employer wants to go ahead and snap them up before another company can get to that person," Brown says.

VIP will begin July 1.