Acadiana partnership to focus on jobs for veterans

The Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs and the Acadian Companies are joining forces to put more military veterans to work by helping them find companies that need qualified, disciplined workers.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Rodney Alexander and Acadian Chairman Richard Zuschlag announced the partnership and initiative Tuesday at Acadian’s North University Campus.

Alexander said unemployment across the country averages around 6.5 percent while unemployment among veterans is 9.3 percent.

“That’s a shame, that’s a disgrace,” Alexander said. “… We’re going to seek out employers who need employees.”

The initiative will take a three-pronged approach, according to David LaCerte, deputy secretary and chief attorney for veterans affairs.

First, the department will enlist the support of employers and governments who are hiring and help them establish hiring goals. Information gathered from companies will be used to create a database listing the companies and the positions.

Second, the Veterans Affairs Department will help employers find state resources such as recruitment events and training programs.

Third, the department will educate veterans on what occupations are in the highest demand with the best wages and benefits.

Zuschlag said Acadian alone will need 1,000 more employees over the next few years, many of them military-trained medics.

The six companies under the Acadian Companies umbrella, including founding company Acadiana Ambulance, also needs mechanics, dispatchers and offshore oil and gas safety personnel.

Zuschlag reminisced Tuesday about Acadian’s humble beginnings, in 1971, when military medics home from the war in Vietnam staffed ambulances.

“Had it not been for the Vietnam medics with actual experience, I don’t think the company would be what it is today,” he said.

About 10 percent of Acadian’s 4,000 employees are military veterans, said Julie Mahfouz, public relations and marketing manager for Acadian Companies.

The Veterans Affairs-Acadian partnership will ask companies that participate in the program to each reach for a veterans employment level of 5 percent, she said.

“Anything we can do to help this initiative, consider us in,” said the Louisiana National Guard adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Glenn Curtis. Curtis said the Guard needs its part-time soldiers to have full-time jobs.

Louisiana Guard members and veterans from other branches offer companies disciplined employees who show up for work on time and take direction well, Curtis said.

“The values and leadership skills our veterans developed during their military careers make them excellent candidates for companies that seek to employ persons with demonstrated skills and solid work ethic,” said Alexander, who became Veterans Affairs secretary in September. Alexander was in his sixth term as a U.S. congressman when he resigned to take over the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs.

For more information on jobs for veterans at Acadian, go to acadian.com/military.

For more information about the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs, to go vetaffairs.la.gov.