Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti pledged Monday to secure 10,000 jobs for veterans by 2017.
The city will dedicate $9 million over the next five years to connect veterans with jobs, the mayor said, and ensure that 10% of those served at the city's new workforce development centers, set to open next month, are veterans.
"Our troops are finally returning home," Garcetti said. "They need more than a smile and a hug. They need housing. They need jobs. They need full integration back into civilian life."
Through the "10,000 Strong" initiative, more than 100 employers have agreed to hire veterans, including Bank of America, Coca-Cola, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, DreamWorks Animation, Health Net, Verizon, USC and the Walt Disney Company.
Government organizations that have committed to hire veterans include Los Angeles County, the LAPD and LAFD, Metro and the L.A. Department of Water and Power.
Garcetti estimated that participating companies have collectively pledged to offer nearly 10,000 jobs.
Christina Watkins, who served two tours of duty as an Army reservist in Iraq, said veterans often don't know how to present and sell their skills to employers when they look for jobs.
Watkins got a graduate degree after returning home and moved to L.A. in late 2013 to look for a job. But she couldn't find work. For more than six months, she said, she was part of the "couch-surfing homeless" population of veterans seeking work.
After submitting more than 100 job applications, she landed a job in mid-April as a career development specialist at Salvation Army Haven, which assists veterans. She said the program announced Monday could help improve chances for job-seeking veterans who are struggling.
The unemployment rate among L.A. County's 330,000 veterans is more than 15%, said county Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who joined Garcetti at the announcement.
"If we're prepared to send so many young men and women into harm's way," he said, "we should be willing to support them when they come home."