The state of Oklahoma entered into a first of its kind partnership for the state with the U.S. Army, in what can be described as a win-win program for soon-to-be veterans and the Department of Corrections.
Gov. Mary Fallin signed the memorandum to allow the DOC to join the Partnership for Youth Success (PaYS) program run by the Army after a short signing ceremony in the state Capitol’s Blue Room. She was joined by members of the Army and Oklahoma National Guard as well as DOC director Joe Albaugh and DPS Commissioner Michael Thompson.
According to the Army’s website, Army PaYS allows recruits, ROTC cadets, soon-to-be veterans or reservists the opportunity for a job interview with a state agency or private partner. The DOC is the first Oklahoma agency to join the program. According to a release from the DOC, there are 47 other private businesses in Oklahoma which are already members.
“To be able to bring some very talented men and women who serve our nation in the military and to take those skill sets where there's the discipline, the training, the commitment to public service into state employment,” Fallin said while expressing her excitement about the partnership.
Nationwide, veteran unemployment was 5.8 percent in 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Oklahoma’s rate was nearly half that at 3.2 percent. However, many veterans still face trouble finding employment after service despite having the military qualifications to do a civilian job.
“I had finished [advanced infantry training] and I didn't have a job,” Thompson said about his time after his military service. “I needed a job, I was newly married and I had a kid on the way.”
The partnership also benefits DOC. The department is still struggling with overcrowding and a short staff. According to the DOC’s latest count taken Monday, capacity was 104 percent and Albaugh said the population continues to rise.
DOC facilities are also operating with a short staff. According to a department spokesperson, there’s a 30 percent job vacancy, which Albaugh hopes to fill with veterans.
“We're doing the best we can, pay is an issue but the men and women coming out of the military are excellent candidates to come into our system and help and have a career,” he said.
The average pay for a corrections officer in Oklahoma is $12.81. Albaugh also said the money to pay for more staff has already been built into the budget.