L.A. Mayor Garcetti announces job assistance program for veterans

B.J. Hawke, a Desert Storm Army veteran who is looking for a job, takes a selfie with L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti after the announcement of the "10,000 Strong" hiring initiative for veterans.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Monday announced a multi-agency assistance program for veterans whose employment prospects have lagged in the recovery, pledging to secure 10,000 jobs by 2017 for those who served in the military.

The city will commit $9 million over the next five years to connect veterans with jobs, the mayor said, and ensure that they account for 10% of those being served at the city’s new workforce development centers, set to open next month.

“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.”

The 10,000 Strong initiative involves more than 100 employers who 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 Co.


Government organizations that have committed to the program include Los Angeles County, the LAPD and LAFD, Metro and the L.A. Department of Water and Power.

Garcetti estimated that participating companies have pledged to offer veterans a total of 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.

Watkins earned a graduate degree after she returned home to New York. She moved to L.A. last year but couldn’t find work. For more than six months, she said, she was part of the “couch-surfing homeless” population of veterans.


After submitting more than 100 job applications, she landed a job in mid-April as a career development specialist with the Salvation Army, which assists veterans. She said the program announced Monday could help improve chances for job-seeking veterans who are struggling.

Among L.A. County’s 330,000 veterans, more than 15% are unemployed, according to 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,” the supervisor said, “we should be willing to support them when they come home.”