April 14, 2013
By James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.
She had an honorable discharge ... and an eviction notice.
She also had marketable skills. In the Army, she had been a personnel management specialist. She could do event planning and outreach. She had all the makings of a top-notch employee. All she lacked was a job.
Luckily for her, America Works knows talent when they see it. When she went to them for help, they saw that she was a natural for working with others who had served in the armed forces. They gave her a job: helping put other people to work.
America Works is an American success story. Dedicated to the proposition that veterans don't need a handout, just a hand up, it stands as a groundbreaking model for moving people from welfare to work.
It began in 1984, when Peter Cove, a businessman and social entrepreneur, got tired of watching America spend billions of dollars on the war on poverty without making any discernible progress.
Cove believed that people working in communities could solve problems better than government handouts. He decided to start a for-profit company that would bring private-sector initiative to welfare reform.
Cove started with a simple proposition: Rather than pay people to live on welfare, pay America Works find them jobs. If Cove succeeded, he would get paid. If he didn't, he'd go broke. Nearly 40 years later, the organization is thriving ... and needed more than ever.
A large number of veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wound up jobless and homeless. Today, more than 60,000 veterans sleep on stone pillows.
Many more have been unable to find regular work. That's particularly frustrating for men and women who have served their country honorably, because they know they have the skills, attitude and character that employers crave.
Cove recognized what was happening and decided to take on the challenge of serving those that served. America Works stood up two programs aimed specifically at helping veterans.
One initiative, conducted in concert with the U.S. Department of Labor, primarily serves veterans in the Washington area. America Works assesses their needs, gives them any training necessary, and collaborates with local organizations and employers to overcome any obstacles standing between a veteran and a job. If the job requires a uniform and work boots, for example, a check gets cut to make sure the vet is fitted out and ready to hit the work site.
Once the vet is in the workplace, America Works doesn't walk away. The company provides retention services -- not just to help keep veterans on the payroll, but to help them advance toward their personal career goals.
America Works also partners with the Veterans Administration to deliver job placement training that -- unlike most government programs -- actually leads to employment.
Together these two programs have placed 500 veterans in jobs in just the past three years. In the process, they've helped those vets become reintegrated into their communities.
The obvious question is: Given this kind of success, why don't more communities embrace the America Works model? Peter Cove struggles with that question all the time.
"In public policy, we should deduce our theory from practice," he wrote recently in the City Journal. However, he observed, those trying to help all too often "turn that principle upside down, proposing theories first and then basing programs on them."
All kinds of groups all over the country are making a real difference for our veterans. Community officials and regular, concerned citizens, should spend a little time learning from those who are making a difference -- and then start making a difference themselves.
-Examiner Columnist James Jay Carafano is vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the Heritage Foundation.
First appeared in The Washington Examiner.
James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.
Vice President, Foreign and Defense Policy Studies, E. W. Richardson Fellow, and Director
Read More >>
Request an interview >>
Please complete the following form to request an interview with a Heritage expert.
Please note that all fields must be completed.
Heritage's daily Morning Bell e-mail keeps you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.
The subscription is free and delivers you the latest conservative policy perspectives on the news each weekday--straight from Heritage experts.
The Morning Bell is your daily wake-up call offering a fresh, conservative analysis of the news.
More than 200,000 Americans rely on Heritage's Morning Bell to stay up to date on the policy battles that affect them.
Rush Limbaugh says "The Heritage Foundation's Morning Bell is just terrific!"
Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) says it's "a great way to start the day for any conservative who wants to get America back on track."
Sign up to start your free subscription today!
The Heritage Foundation is the nation’s most broadly supported public policy research institute, with hundreds of thousands of individual, foundation and corporate donors. Heritage, founded in February 1973, has a staff of 275 and an annual expense budget of $82.4 million.
Our mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense. Read More
© 2014, The Heritage Foundation Conservative policy research since 1973