While progress is being made across the country to end homelessness among Veterans, there are still Veterans living without safe and stable housing. Thankfully, many organizations and programs are working to provide Veterans with much needed assistance. One such program is Minnesota’s Beyond the Yellow Ribbon (BYR).
BYR is a Minnesota Department of Military Affairs statewide program created to connect service members, Veterans, and military families with state and federal resources and services. There’s now 227 cities, 26 counties, and 64 companies across the state identified as Yellow Ribbon cities, companies, or agencies. They have all pledged to assist Veterans and connect them with resources.
A few years ago, the BYR program took an important step to address Veteran unemployment rates. It created a business subcommittee to encourage Minnesota businesses to employ and retain Veterans. The BYR business subcommittee partners with companies of all sizes, including large corporations such as Target, UPS, and Wells Fargo. Every partner makes a commitment to assist Veterans and pledges to “identify, recruit, hire, and retain currently serving and Veteran employees,” according to Deric Williams, community employment coordinator at the Minneapolis VA Health Care System. Representatives from these partners meet with Veteran participants on a monthly basis to discuss their needs and share program updates.
BYR also offers an employment mentorship program. Service members and Veterans have the opportunity to connect with mentors in the industries that align with their interests to gain valuable insights and learn how to prepare for a meaningful career. Other program services include resume development, interview preparation, and transportation assistance. Participants can also receive assistance paying for business clothing and haircuts to help them prepare for interviews and jobs.
Feedback about the program has been resoundingly positive. Participants report increased confidence and valuable gains in knowledge. A formerly homeless Veteran obtained a bachelor’s degree, completed two internships, but was unable to secure a career in the field of her choice. However, she recently sat down with a program-appointed mentor and discovered barriers between her and her dream career that she was previously unaware of. Since then, she started working with her mentor to address these and work toward landing her dream job.
Another Veteran received online graphic design training resources to begin preparing for a career in graphic design. However, “the primary outcome for many of the Veterans that participated…was the boost to their confidence and the knowledge that they gained,” Williams said.
In response to the positive feedback, the Minnesota BYR has begun planning its next job readiness session and is looking at ways to increase program accessibility for rural Veterans seeking employment.