“Pittsburgh has a long history of people serving in the military and coming back to build a new life. A new generation is returning home after service and Pittsburgh needs an initiative tailored to their strengths and needs so that the veteran career woman, veteran entrepreneur, or veteran homeowner can find the resources they need for success. I want to roll out the welcome mat for post 9/11 veterans to build a life in Pittsburgh,” said Mayor William Peduto.
Greater Pittsburgh has one of the largest concentrations of veterans in the country. Despite the large veteran population, establishing a new life in Pittsburgh can be difficult. At the launch event, Lynn Strezeski and Will Lutz spoke to their own experiences finding work and starting a business. The two veterans expressed the challenges they faced, but also the strengths they gained through their military service.
Mayor Peduto was joined by Rosye Cloud, the Senior Advisor for Veteran Employment, from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to announce a new partnership between the City and the VA to help veterans gain skills to find employment. Pittsburgh has been selected by the VA to be part of the Veterans Economic Communities Initiative (VECI), which provides a full-time staff person, an economic liaison, for the Mayor’s office to focus on improving veteran education and employment opportunities.
“It is nothing short of an honor to be working so closely with Mayor Peduto, the City of Pittsburgh, and all the organizations who have been coming together to create more opportunities for Veterans and their families here in this great city,” said Ms. Cloud. “VA believes in the power of partnership at the local level – serving Veterans is a team sport. So we’re excited to be joining in on the incredible collaboration and momentum already taking place here in Pittsburgh through our Veterans Economic Communities Initiative.”
Along with the liaison, the VA has helped establish a Learning Hub network, a pilot program which will provide certification for skills to improve employment opportunities through online and in-person instruction. Pittsburgh’s Learning Hub network will be free for transitioning service members with online classes provided through Coursera and in-person meetings facilitated by the American Red Cross and hosted at Google’s office in Bakery Square. As part of the network, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh will provide programming to better connect veterans to resources – ranging from library card sign up to discussion groups that address workforce, entrepreneurship, and small business goals and barriers. Pittsburgh’s Learning Hub will be the 6th hub in the nation.
James O’Connor leader for The Mission Continues Pittsburgh 1st Service Platoon and Steve Heller-Burris, Executive Director of Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh joined the Mayor during the press event as well. Both organizations hosted a house rebuild for a veteran’s home in Hazelwood by veteran volunteers that served as a backdrop to the press event. Before the press event, Mayor Peduto joined these veterans in their volunteer day. The Mission Continues is a veterans organization, that engages members through community service projects and allows veteran members to continue their commitment to service after the military.