— Ohio has rolled out an online registry letting military veterans know which employers are looking to hire veterans.
Registry proponents suggest it should result in more jobs for veterans, while others aren't so sure.
The registry, stemming from a 2014 law, went online Dec. 19 with about 300 employer names. More than 150 indicated they have a preference policy for hiring, promoting or retaining veterans, service members or their spouses or surviving spouses. Others "self-reported" as military-friendly — an option that isn't in the law but does allow employers to indicate other veteran support.
The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services must maintain the voluntary registry and provide a link on its OhioMeansJobs website for employers wanting to get on the list.
The registry was included in an amendment that Ohio House Speaker-elect Cliff Rosenberger proposed primarily to provide legal protection for employers' concerned that establishing a preference policy might violate equal employment opportunity laws, state Rep. Terry Johnson said in an email.
But Johnson, who heads the House Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, said the registry should also help veterans find jobs.
Army veteran Buck Clay, who graduated in April from the University of Cincinnati with a bachelor's degree in communications, is skeptical that the growing number of online websites and registries to assist veterans looking for jobs actually helps.
Clay, who has tried online job sites and registries in a search for employment that has also included attending job fairs and contacting potential employers on his own, said he thinks few online sites lead to employment and any jobs they do generate are mostly low-level ones that don't match veterans' abilities and experience.
"There are a lot of sites that are supposed to help, but there isn't a good professional network connecting them and no sharing of databases," Clay said. "Everybody wants to stay on their own little island."
Clay isn't the only veteran of that opinion, according to the head of a firm that provides human resources consulting and training for organizations wanting to improve recruitment and retention of veterans. Lisa Rosser says some veterans say they often see employers list themselves as veteran friendly but then not provide job help.
"More technology and databases won't solve the problem," said Rosser, chief executive of The Value of a Veteran company in the Washington, D.C., area. "Making a human connection is what's needed, whether that comes through mentorships, internships or just meeting with veterans."
The 2013 unemployment rate in Ohio for veterans who have served since 2001 averaged 11.8 percent, compared with 7.3 percent for nonveterans, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Harry Prestanski, a Vietnam veteran and executive director of Ohio Veterans United, believes much of the unemployment can be attributed to the economy and the inability of some veterans and employers to translate military skills into civilian jobs. But he said he is seeing more companies aggressively recruit and hire veterans, and he is optimistic.
"I think the registry is a good start," he said.
Cleveland Clinic, which has sought more access to veterans for jobs, plans to sign on, said Gayle Agahi, a director of government and community relations for the clinic.
Columbus-based American Electric Power, where veterans make up about 10 percent of the workforce, was unaware of the registry but will look into it, utility spokeswoman Tammy Ridout said.
"It sounds like something that may allow us to expand our veterans outreach," she said.
Ohio's jobs agency has sent about 13,000 emails notifying employers of the registry and will promote it more in 2015.