Paralyzed Veterans of America’s Operation PAVE Provides Free Training, Education, Job Counseling & Placement Assistance
A national vocational program that equips veterans with job skills and helps them find employment opened its Florida office Friday, July 12, 2013, at the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital.
Paralyzed Veterans of America’s Operation PAVE (Paving Access for Veterans Employment), a vocational assistance program helps all veterans find jobs and navigate their employment, education and benefits options.
The Tampa office is the seventh PAVE center opened by Paralyzed Veterans of America, which operates offices at VA facilities in San Antonio, Long Beach, Minneapolis, Richmond, Boston and Augusta, GA. The organization plans to open an eighth center in Chicago next year.
“It’s unacceptable that so many of our nation’s veterans who have served and sacrificed for our freedoms are struggling to find jobs,” said Bill Lawson, National President of Paralyzed Veterans of America, who officially opened the Tampa office. “Through Operation PAVE, we hope to reach these veterans, place them with employers who are looking to hire veterans and cut the unemployment rate among veterans.”
Joining Lawson at the grand opening was Rich Brooks, President of Agility Defense & Government Services Inc., the private sector partner that raised the money to fund the Tampa PAVE center.
“We owe a great debt to those who have served our country. We need to make sure they get every chance to find and thrive in productive, meaningful careers,” Brooks said. “I’m confident that employers in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area and across Florida will step up and look to this center for help in hiring veterans. They understand the value veterans bring to the workplace.”
Representative Jeff Miller, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, applauded PAVE’s public-private partnership as a much-needed new resource to help veterans find meaningful careers.
“The PAVE program is a fine example of how the private sector and government are working together to give our nation’s wounded heroes a better chance at achieving the American dream.”
Congressman Gus Bilirakis, Vice-Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, also commended PAVE’s collaborative efforts and innovative supported employment model.
“I applaud the partnership between the Paralyzed Veterans of America and James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital and welcome Operation PAVE to the Tampa Bay area. I am confident that through this program, many of Florida’s veterans will obtain the support they need to find jobs and pursue education opportunities, paving a better and brighter future.”
Congresswoman Kathy Castor of Florida’s 14th district and Congressional Representative for the Haley VA Medical Center welcomed PAVE as a valuable new resource for service members in the 14th district and across Florida.
“The launching of the Operation PAVE Tampa office will provide a valuable resource to Florida veterans who are returning home. Because PAVE is funded completely by private donations, the program will be provided free of charge to Florida Veterans and their families who have sacrificed so much for their country.”
Florida is home to the country’s third-largest veterans population and the third-largest number of disabled veterans, according to the Florida Department of Veteran Affairs. The state is expected to experience a large influx of veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq as those veterans resettle, move into the civilian workforce or retire.
Anthony Hopkins, an Air Force veteran living in the Tampa area, also attended the center opening. He is going through the PAVE program and currently working with Tampa PAVE counselor Susan Deguzman.
“Working with Susan and the PAVE program has really helped with the transition from my military career to the civilian world,” said Hopkins, a 23 year Air Force veteran. “I highly recommend that any veteran seeking employment or looking for assistance with where to start should contact their closest PAVE program center – they are truly there to help.
Operation PAVE provides free one-on-one employment assistance, benefits counseling and support to any veteran and his/her family. The program also helps employers who are committed to hiring veterans.
Tampa’s Operation PAVE office is part of a national network built by Paralyzed Veterans through an innovative public-private partnership. For more information about Operation PAVE, visit www.operationpave.org.
Since 2007, 1,500 veterans have received services through the PAVE program, and 700+ companies and organizations in the PAVE Employer Network have committed to hiring a PAVE client.