BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) _ A program aimed at helping veterans hone their skills through education to prepare them for careers is seeing booming registration at Western Kentucky University.

The Veterans Upward Bound initiative has jumped from 99 participants in the 2008-09 school year to 165 veterans in the 2012-13 year. Final numbers for this year’s participants will be calculated Sept. 30, but to date the program had 128 veterans participating.

The program coordinator, Rick Wright, told The Daily News that the staff tries to match veterans with schools and degrees that could lead to jobs that require skills similar to ones they learned in the military.

“The least we can do for these brave men and women is to offer them a good education so they can get a good job,” Wright said.

Kentucky has 2,000 to 3,200 veterans younger than 25 years old, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The state has 339,000 veterans of all ages.

Veteran unemployment steadily increased starting in about 2007 from about 4.5 percent to a peak of 10 percent in October 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unemployment stayed in the upper 9 percent range for all of 2010 and started to come down in late 2011. The veteran jobless rate has gradually decreased since then.

Bob Wilson, chairman of the Southcentral Kentucky Community Blueprint Program, which aims to address the needs of veterans and their families, said that like Wright, he has seen a lot of veterans seeking assistance.

“Unfortunately, what we’re seeing is … a lot of them are underprepared,” Wilson said. “The veterans who are coming out are not prepared for the civilian side of what they did in the military.”

Basic areas of need are resume writing and interview skills.

Wilson, who spent 20 years in the Marine Corps and six years in the Tennessee National Guard, said veterans face the challenge of crossing over to civilian life in many ways. In the military, a lot of veterans were gung ho about their service and may have a difficult time phasing off that mindset, Wilson said.

“I say to them, `Once you’re done with that, now what?’ ” Wilson said.

Marine Corp veteran David Jones of Bowling Green is using the program to study nursing at Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College while he works at UPS as a forklift operator. Jones had a lot of ideas as a kid for what he might want to be when he grew up, but a corpsman Jones met while in the military encouraged him to look into the medical field.

Jones served two deployments in Afghanistan and rose to the rank of corporal. He was honorably discharged from the Marines in June. Upon returning to the civilian sector, Jones knew he needed to devise a future for himself outside his military experience.

Before being discharged, Jones participated in a transition assistance program through the Marine Corps. Having not written a professional resume or done an interview since he was a teenager, Jones was grateful for the help he got while in the program. The Marines also directed him toward resources and websites he could use to find a job.

Jones ultimately wants to be a trauma nurse.

“I like the idea of being able to save someone’s life if I can,” Jones said.


Information from: Daily News,