For the upcoming ReCONNECT to Economic Opportunity forum, Oct. 15 in Charlotte, the Institute for Emerging Issues has chosen five community initiatives from throughout North Carolina that will share with our forum audience how they’re working on economic development in their area. Here, we profile Mecklenburg County’s Building With Our Veterans program.
Mitch Bowers joined the military after high school and served for five and a half years.
“The skills that I learned in that time frame really don’t translate outside of the military, so it was a very hard adjustment coming back into a regular civilian world and trying to figure out what I wanted to do with myself,” said Bowers.
When he got out of the military in 2009, Bowers went to school, but he wasn’t finding a career path. He heard about Mecklenburg County’s Building With Our Veterans program, which provides classroom and field training for unemployed or underemployed veterans to become building code inspectors.
Several Mecklenburg County departments, including the Veterans Services Division of Community Support Services, the Code Enforcement Division of Land Use and Environmental Services Agency, and Human Resources, partner with Central Piedmont Community College to recruit and retain military veterans with construction skills.
Participants are paid while they’re in the year-long program, and at the end of it, they’re offered a full-time job in the Code Enforcement Division.
Currently, eight graduates of the program are employed with Mecklenburg County. Several others went on to accept jobs out of state or in the private sector, said Ebenezer Gujjarlapudi, the director of the Land Use and Environmental Services Agency.
“We are proud to show that we can give the veterans the skills they need to be able to succeed not only in Mecklenburg County, but anywhere else in the nation they choose to live and raise their family,” said Gujjarlapudi.
Bowers found that the program helped him readjust to civilian life.
“Some of the biggest hurdles to people integrating back into society and feeling normal – that’s the thing, feeling normal – is feeling like you have a purpose,” he said.
Learn more about the Building With Our Veterans program during the Institute for Emerging Issue’s ReCONNECT to Economic Opportunity forum on October 15 in Charlotte.