TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The state of Florida is launching a campaign to encourage businesses to hire more military veterans.
Too many of those service men and women have had a tough time finding jobs when they return home. The unemployment rate among Florida National Guard soldiers is estimated at 17 percent. The state's current jobless rate is 9.9 percent.
Tuesday was Military Day at the state Capitol and Gov. Rick Scott announced the start of a year-long effort called "Hiring Florida's Heroes."
The program includes a toll-free number that business owners can call to find a veteran for an open position.
The Employ Florida Marketplace hotline is 1-866-352-2345. Or go online to www.veterans.employflorida.com.
Gov. Scott said specialists with Workforce Florida will help businesses tap into the highly skilled talent pool of military veterans. "Florida's heroes have made protecting our freedom their business. We say to Florida's employers, make it your business to hire Florida's heroes."
Sen. Don Gaetz, slated to be a future Senate president, said the unemployment figures are even higher for veterans returning from combat zones -- around 40 percent.
He vowed lawmakers would not rest in their mission to help veterans find jobs.
"Until we make sure that every returning national guardsman and woman who has represented this state, who's gone out and sacrificed for us while we've stayed home is guaranteed a job, a home, a prosperity and a better life in Florida."
Florida's workforce system is sending representatives to national guard armories around the state to help veterans with their job searches. The state reports those efforts have helped nearly 13,000 veterans find work over the past year.
Rep. Will Weatherford urged businesses to take advantage of the program.
"What we're doing here today is a small cog in the wheel. It is a small thing that we can do to make sure that business know that when you're hiring a veteran you're hiring a hero. You're hiring someone who's put on a uniform, who's represented this country with dignity and honor and has been willing to fight for the very freedoms that we get to enjoy."