City-based nonprofit tackles veteran, underserved unemployment – Metro US

City-based nonprofit tackles veteran, underserved unemployment

The percentage of unemployed veterans hit an average all-time low of 4.5 percent last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but that certainly wasn’t always the case, which is why Bronx native Dr. Arthur Langer set out to create a systemic change when he founded Workforce Opportunity Service in 2005. 

“There is a diversity and inclusion problem in the current climate,” Langer said, “It’s difficult for companies to find workers in this category, and we’re going to have an unemployment problem if we don’t deal with this shortfall.”

City-based Workforce Opportunity Services develops untapped talent from the veteran and underserved communities and places them with companies looking to diversify. WOS operates in more than 40 cities in the U.S., France and The Netherlands and has placed more than 3,800 workers at 60-plus companies worldwide.

“To us, veterans are an older version of the high school and college people that we try to help,” said Langer, who is also a professor of professional practice at Columbia University. “There are lots of companies that were looking for veterans to help them and also realized they come with a little bit more experience because every veteran that comes out of the military has been educated and trained in a particular skill.”

Fifty-six percent of WOS’ placed workers have been veterans, while 45 percent have been black and 36 percent have been women.

Langer has found many companies can be “risk-averse” and may have difficulty assimilating talent from these communities, so WOS offers what he says is a “risk-free environment as we’re the employer to begin,” he explained. “That’s a huge differential than any other people doing this work.”

WOS works with individuals to develop various skills for industries like IT, accounting and mechanics and also workshops business writing, workplace professionalism, time management, social media etiquette, interview skills and more. It even goes well beyond training and job placement, having paid for babysitters and rent so participants can attend night school or get on their feet, something that hasn’t been for naught.

“One of the things that has been wonderful is our workers don’t leave — we have a 90 percent retention rate once they’ve been hired away,” Langer said.

For more info, visit wforce.org.

Workforce Opportunity Service at a glance

• Founded in 2005
• Operates in more than 40 cities in the U.S., France and The Netherlands
• Has a 90 percent retention rate
• 94 percent of money goes to program expenses
• 56 percent of placed workers have been veterans
• 45 percent of have been black
• 36 percent have been women
• Places in IT, accounting, shared services, mechanics, skilled labor and more