Connecting our military veterans with employers and keeping them in Eastern North Carolina.
That's what Greenville City Leaders are striving for. They've partnered with East Carolina University and Pitt Community College to offer veterans the chance to get a job in the manufacturing field.
Master Sgt. Michael Pate has spent the past 24-years in the United States Air Force but now he says it's time.
"You know, there's a thing in the military, they usually say you'll know when it's time for you to retire. It's time for me to retire."
Pate is just one of thousands of service members in North Carolina making the transition to civilian life. Now, Greenville city leaders are hoping to make that move a little smoother.
"These people have been asked to do difficult things. They've been asked to overcome obstacles; to find a creative and a new way on the spot to make something happen. They have experience with that and that's what our local companies are interested in. They want to capitalize on that," said Mary Paramore, Director of Business and Industry and Pitt Community College.
As part of "Operation Reentry" dozens of local veterans, including Pate, are spending two weeks getting real-life manufacturing experience and training. The ultimate goal: to get a job.
"We wanted to help them take some of their military training and transfer that into civilian concepts. Not just expose them to it, but give them the actual nationally recognized credentials that it would take to be really competitive in the job hunt," said Paramore.
It's real experience and real opportunities. At the end of the two-week process, the veterans will get a chance to interview with six Greenville companies and hopefully land a job.
"For a community like Greenville to reach out to us and say 'hey, this is what we want to do for you guys. This is how we want to help you'… It means a lot because sometimes you don't get that help. I mean, people thank you in the streets and they buy you a cup of coffee but sometimes you need a little bit more. And for them to recognize that need for veterans, it's huge," said Pate.
The course is free for veterans. All costs are supported by ECU's "Champions of Freedom Fund." City leaders say they plan to offer this program again in the future.